Sunday, October 23, 2022

Grzegorz Wróblewski interviewed by Jefferson Hanson about his book Shanty Town | Post-Asemic Press #019

Grzegorz Wróblewski Interview by Jefferson Hansen

Grzegorz Wróblewski has a new book out called Shanty Town from Post-Asemic Press. 

Here is the interview:

1.Each page consists of a deep layer of what looks like cursive writing with circles and other geometric figures on top. Is the cursive in a language or is it asemic? 

This is my calligraphic method, way of creating asemic writing. I have been working on this type of line for several dozen years. It looks like a concrete notation, like cursive. Maybe because it is not a classic pictogram, for example. This “writing and signs” are an echo of my aesthetic research. A kind of signal to other people and outer space. Cursive is like psychology here. Or like an EKG heart test. He gives us many tips. Geometric figures complete this study. Chaos can mean harmony at times. In my opinion, Cy Twombly, Mark Tobey, Pierre Alechinsky and Donald Judd (here I am mentioning, for example, some classical artists of contemporary art) created (paradoxically!) similar works. Mantras have dynamics. Zen is not a lazy dream. It is the constant work of our consciousness.


2. Do you think of our everyday language as layered? Do you think of poetic language as such? How about asemic “language”? What is suggested by the layering in Shanty Town?

Each variation, type of language, including asemic writing, has its own specific accents. Moments of screaming and silence. Irregularity and regularity. Joy and nostalgia. Inner sadness… Layers are just those elements, accents. We have a similar situation in every other entry, creation. In traditional literature, objectivist poetry or haiku. In the singing of the birds, et cetera. Layers are deformation, that is, necessity. It is a voice from planet Earth. Life is made of layers. Their number and density are the characteristics of every human being. The layers in Shanty Town tell the psychological condition of the author of the book. As he sees, he feels the reality around him. What is he dreaming about, what are his “ups and downs”. It seems to me that the issue of layers is not only a topic for archaeologists or geologists. It is also a topic for psychologists, anthropologists, space researchers... Layers are ordinary and mysterious at the same time. As with quantum theories, they cannot be easily defined. Layering in Shanty Town is also a journey through time. Traveler's mirror… As you can see in Shanty Town we sometimes have a lot or less of layers. So this trip had its own pulsation. 


3. You are a poet, visual artist, and asemic artist. How do these three roles interact, if they do, in this work?

I have been working on literature and art for over forty years. I wrote not only poetry, but also prose, plays, essays. Similarly with art. I've experimented with various visual techniques. Apart from acrylics, ink, pastels, charcoal etc., I created mixed media installations. I was interested in the combination of paints with materials such as sand, newspaper scraps, grass... I have also created and still create photographic series, which I make using a technically simple method, a mobile phone.

I was fascinated by calligraphy, and many asemic motifs found their way into my very old works. On the website, Michael Jacobson has published examples of my paintings of this type several times. In my case, literature and art was a large testing ground. The variety of methods and techniques of expression turned out to be very helpful. Everything complemented well. So I was formally well prepared to work on Shanty Town. I had a lot of artistic experience. However, I knew that despite my “work plans”, a huge, unknown space awaited me. And that's how it happened. Shanty Town chronicles a shipwrecked man sailing on a mysterious ocean. It is an evidently interdisciplinary book. A combination of different genres of art. It seems to me, however, that it is a consistent register, very “readable” in reception. This is my hand and soul. People who study the book thoroughly will surely have an opinion about its hermetic nature or the openness (of Shanty Town's ideas).

4. What is the relationship of the title, “Shanty Town”, to the work within? 

Shanty Town is a theme, words from Jamaican ska music. And also the name of a ruined, poor suburb. So, on the one hand, there are roots, cotton fields, and, on the other, a passenger syndrome, someone who is among the excluded. However, a hard past and social exclusion do not mean failure. In some cases, they are salvation. The ability to look at space from a distance. A healthy and analytical distance. I don't feel like the most losing human copy.

But life among human mammals has never been easy and optimistic for me. I strongly believed in the solidarity of those excluded from society, in their wisdom and the power to impart knowledge. That is why the rhythm of cotton fields and houses covered with rusty sheet metal. I wanted to transform my visions, tell the world about them. I chose asemic writing. No other literary or artistic genre was optimal for me. I think that everything is well presented in the introduction published in the book, written by Mark Young, as well as blurbs of such great writers/artists/thinkers as: Dave Read, Karina Obara, Stephen Nelson, Anna Matysiak, Tim Gaze. Calligraphy tells about the human condition, his observations and dilemmas. A traditionally registered chronicle would not be a nuisance. Here, I needed improvisation and a subconscious mind. Different working method. The book may look like a conceptual object at first glance. But it's not like that. It also reflects on human matters that are close to each of us.


5. Did you approach these works as pieces that would end up in a book rather than framed as visual art? If so, how did such an approach affect the work itself? 

I was working on these calligraphies with the book in mind. That was their purpose of creation. But I do not see any problem or conflict to show works from Shanty Town's book at exhibitions in galleries or art museums. Not necessarily in the golden framework… It is a matter of sensible preparation of such an exhibition. Selection, creating cycles. There are many potential possibilities. Each exhibition space has its own logic. Lighting, area, height. Dialogue with asemic works would be very important. The transfer of works from electronic documents to canvas or other material is not complicated technically. But for that you need a solid economy, good curators and organizers. And you know how difficult and complicated the art world is now. So that's just a theory for now. But I thought these works could be presented well in larger formats, such as relatively large "icons", each 120 x 100 cm. It would be an interesting experiment for sure. Single motives would have to "defend itself". The world of the gallery is governed by different rules than the world of books.


6. What, in your view, is asemic writing, and what is its value?

The definition of asemic writing should always be an open definition and not limited by anything. This is not only the orthodox inspiration of "Voynich manuscript". Asemic writing roams freely in the timeline. Calligraphy meets a hologram, and hologram meets electronic, improvised sounds. Together they form a more capacious whole. Asemic writing tries to better understand the Universe, analyzes the mysterious past and looks into the future completely unknown to us. It will always be an aesthetic, extremely important outpost of art, a kind of thinking about the meaning of life. You have to try to treat, although it is not possible.