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Kufic- an often geometric and tessellated variation of written Arabic languages such as Thuluth or Basmala possess a flexibility that (as a nonlinguist westerner) is visually and conceptually asemic. As an interwoven pattern that derives from a musical language, its modulation, and textual transformations reveal themselves in an enormous variety of forms. Its captivation exists within its structural, labyrinth-esque hypnotism.

Fig. 1

The formation of an unintelligible mode of communication (asemic writing) upholding and supporting itself without an exclusive purpose or ambition alludes to a quote from Lyn Hejinian- a quote of which I unashamedly reference in a number of essays:

‘Language is nothing but meanings and meanings are nothing but a flow of contexts. Such contexts rarely coalesce into images, rarely come to terms. They are transitions, transmutations, the endless radiation of denotation into relation.’ [1]

The formation of Islamic pattern is, for the most part, a calculative and numerical process with numbers acting as the model of the internal organisation. If we are to consider mathematics as a self-generating system, a brief evaluation of pattern demonstrates each iteration of Kufic writing disparate.

Fig. 2

The above image demonstrates the importance of numerical substructures when formulating graphical sequences. However, central to the coordinative mappings of shape exists a certain rhythm or pace of symbols that is graphically depicted in the decorative Islamic pattern.

Fig. 3

Though its intrigue does not subside post calculation. In the above example of a square Kufic pattern, the black and white space translates to ‘In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful’. Whilst the placement of words or symbols with religious significance are often seen in Arabic sequences, a likeness can be made to modern day QR (quick response) codes.

Fig. 4  p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Helvetica; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} [Scan the above QR code to be taken back to]

There exist blatant disparities between the two languages. Fundamentally, that of purpose, embedded information and ‘code’. To the detriment of asemicism of both, their carrying of information (internally and externally) eliminates asemic ambiguity and their semiotic content. Though visually captivating, coded data that converts itself into meaning and intent so self-effacingly counters the organic nature of generative languages.

Fig. 5 and Fig. 6

There’s a bauhausian, graphic quality to Kufic writing and QR codes. Something akin to the linguistic patterns demonstrated by Luisa Russo [Fig. 5] and Daniel Buren [Fig. 6].

Fig. 7

The (typo)graphic efforts of Michael Bierut’s and Aron Fay’s are equally similar. Especially the works for Pentagram and MIT Media Lab [Fig. 7] in possessing qualities of Kufic and QR. Nonetheless, this work ceases to acknowledge the importance of language that doesn’t inflict meaning or phonetic information.

In the top right image of the above photoset, Pentagram describes these as ‘variations of a single character, that will allow for almost every possible letter combination — “an algorithm [that] will generate all the possible solutions for any given group acronyms in the future.” [2] There’s something undeniably underwhelming for (what is assumingly) a complex algorithm to produce variations of letters A-Z and numbers 1-9 when it visually instigates a more promising form of data.

Attempting to visually digitalise an unassuming Kufic pattern into a 3D rendering of itself proved to be a beneficial exercise in comprehending such software. However, the tests carried with them an opacity which ruptured the mathematically generated pattern and rendered them down to something rather stagnant. Typography and calligraphy has the ability to move sense from one perspective to the another, to dis-harmonise meaning whilst sustaining its own mysticism. Though it’s arguable that the .gif alludes to a therapeutic hypnotism/mysticism in its repetition, the aforementioned ‘process’ or host to information that Kufic harnesses, is in this instance, a cause of its own ruin.

In a somewhat contradictory manner to the above points raised regarding the disenchantment of variations of westernised/latin syllabograms, reconstructing, duplicating, repeating, stacking and reconfiguring a singular Kufic word into a cube like rendering was perhaps miscalculated approach to moderate meaning.

As the text becomes lost in a conglomerated rendering of itself (demonstrated in the above video), it becomes evident that literal (as opposed to asemic) writing can still collapse under its own existence. It is not outrightly intelligible (or intelligible at all) that the suspending object carries with it and comprises entirely of a digitalised language. We are left to assume that this object traveling in a vacant space conjures no fixed context besides a kind of pre 90s/postinternet aesthetic.

Previous work and writings discuss a personal gravitation towards textual excessiveness and writing that suggests something informative or educational, only to exist in its own (un)desirable confusion. The performativity and self-determining of the above works are lacking in that sense. It’s not inviting nor informative (besides shameless self-promotion). Though this video was created for the purposes of promotion as a kind of ‘teaser’, it is not a representative of my current practice, and upon reflection, is a test to which I have grown to somewhat regret. Though this does not mean it to be a futile exploration of communication renderings. 

The ‘spoken’ word we hear (consider this a belated apology to whose who wore headphones) is a computerised reading of a 2016 work The Little Political. At a loss to incorporate an auditory element into the work (I use the term work especially loosely here) to better communicate what my practice involves, the computerised reading resulted in being a significant prerequisite. 

By a computerised reading, I refer to basic text-to-speech software. A voice equally with and without agency, in limbo, a non-sacrificial byproduct of algorithmic data speaking as if alive. It was with the computerised reading of The Little Political and following the rejection of previous 3D renders that I reverted back to previous generative works.

Fig. 12

ASEM- an abbreviation of asemic, is a typeface spawned from one the most know sans-serif typefaces; arial- though its resemblance to its origin has been cast in a newly formatted, abstracted construct. It began as an attempt to create a font with three dimensions. By slicing, rotating and excluding essential structural components from each letter of the QWERTY keyboard i.e. the letter ‘A’ being stripped of its left vertical diagonal and then rotated, was to further disconnect the regularity of traditional typefaces. This proposed issues surrounding the compression of the intial design was in the conversion of JPEG to a TTF (font) file. 

Though it’s construction was relatively unsystematic and without calculative rules or measurements of accuracy, the logography or semiotics of each letter alludes to a to a kind of gestural blotchiness. Further reducing the calligriphic qualities of the original ASEM (left) to a more uniformed and consistent state of geometrics (middle), we see a kind of uneducated and uncalculated approach to the topology of asemic languages.

Topology states that tearing is ‘not allowed’ in order to preserve the properties of objects but rather deformations, twists and stretching ‘is allowed’. It’s conceivable that the construction of ASEM thereby violates these boundaries to influence a closer resemblance to iconicity or noniconicity of the signs produced by the unmethodical dismantling of shape and its abstraction. 

Fig. 13

If we are to look at the work of Manfred Mohr, to whom I take great influence from, the disparities in process and data (alike the differences in Kufic and QR codes) thereby affect/effect the visual lexicon. The third iteration of ASEM, titled ASEMMOHR, sees ASEM rendered down further and reduced to what Mohr rejected the idea of; pseudo-aesthetical information. The aesthetic of the outcome was not wholly predetermined, rather, a byproduct of unanticipated calculation and consistent scale. 

Acknowledging pattern as a calculative process and a culmination of purpose (as seen in Kufic pattern), the signs of Mohr are produced by the rational structure of computerised programmings and by a generative process equally as formulated. Additionally, the outcome can be anticipated, while the aesthetic product is not susceptible of anticipation. [3]

“The contribution of the computer in art is thus quite clear: it compels the artist to use absolute precision, and it makes accuracy an artistic tool. For the artist precision implies the obligation to go beyond spontaneous intuition, the obligation to express himself, to transform an original idea into a program that contains all the possibilities needed for its realization. The reward of precision is the certainty that everything the artist can and wishes to define is capable of realization.” [4]

Fig. 14 - The text of which the computer is reading can be found here:

Typically, the application of generative programming within my work is, for loss of a better term, lo-fi. Manoeuvring around generic software to influence discrepancies and mistranslations ultimately restricts or encouragingly subverts the precision of generative processes. Alike Mohr, this restriction in precision to what can be mathematically described, transposes “the mediating system inserted between creator and work” [5] 

The labelling of computerised or technologically generative works as ‘artificial’ is a notion I wholeheartedly reject. I’d argue that discrepancies in a computer understanding and translating text to voice is almost organic. Aside from the topic of intelligence (which is something immeasurable and insignificant in this instance) the computers abstracted approach to challenging language demonstrates a lexicon incapable of reproduction. Yet the aesthetic information is not predictable, and in the above test, the repertoire of the means used is not necessarily the elixir to the outcome as in Mohr’s work.

I underwent an exploration where the computer mirrored itself. We hear a computerised voice discuss what it means for something to exist as something generative- in turn the product discussing the bi-product- a kind of computerised self-reflection and reproduction. The voice itself carries an integrated familiarity and monotony that could be described as the mathematically semantic bearer of chance operation. An unseen line of symmetry divides the two texts. Although we assume the words are being generated underneath the ASEMMOHR mirage are the same, we cannot be certain. 

It is this idea of mirage, mysticism and hypnotism that ASEMMOHR intrinsically evokes as we see it conform to its algorithmic duty. The code, in its truest form, carries an embedded or encrypted field of data- though I reject this reality here. It’s aesthetic ontology does not outrightly allude to the complexity and structural qualities of Kufic It does bear a kind of timelessness that is assuringly wanting to be de-coded or understood by the witness. 

Language thus, has its own imposterous tendencies to disrupt or correct itself- to manipulate itself into meaning in an almost self-correcting or regenerative attempt to exist as intended. To free language from its logical content/context and to render them toward an abstract form requires an approach that perhaps mathematics, algorithms or generative methods could devise. 

Generally, the paths to which sign and composition exist along will generate tensions in aesthetic information and the educational. Though Mohr’s works tends to somehow connect, link, unify or harmonise to strip back the logograph or symbolism of the isolated ideogram or character, there is something akin to the tessellated and intertwined graphical motifs/anti-motifs of Kufic and asemicism that would seem to serve the end of both…

Side Notes:

Thank you to all those who supported and contacted me following the launch of my website. I aim to maintain a ‘lifeness’ to this space by uploading periodically. Though this will probably result in an amass of grammatical discrepancies on my behalf when it comes to frequent blog posts. Though I have exceeded my expectations towards the length on this post, I’m uncertain as to how future posts will compare. Mostly because I’ve treated this as a cornerstone to restart my artistic practice- so in that sense, this is maybe a debrief of current explorations.


[1] Hejinian, L, 2000. The Language of Inquiry. 1. University of California Press.

[2] Underconsideration/Armin. 2014. New Logo and Identity For MIT Media Lab By Pentagram.. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 18 May 2017].[3]

[4] Manfred Mohr IBM-Informatique Nr.13, IBM France, Paris 1975.

[5] Bense, M, 2007. Aesthetica : Introduction à la nouvelle esthétique. 1st ed. France: Cerf. p.338

Images and Videos:

[Fig. 1] Shakil Akram Khan, (2017), Islamic Geometric Calligraphy/Square Kufic Tessellations [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 18 May 2017].

[Fig. 2] Numerical Substructures of Pattern (source: page 33, The Language of Pattern, 1974)

[Fig. 3] Uploaded to Arabic Calligraphy - Creator Unknown, (2017), Arabic Calligraghy translating as “In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful” [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 18 May 2017].

[Fig. 4] Generated using

[Fig. 5] Luisa Russo, (2017), Title of work unknown [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 18 May 2017].

[Fig .6] Daniel Buren, (1985), “Sha-kkei” or “Borrowing the landscape” [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 18 May 2017].

[Fig. 7] Michael Bierut, (2014), Collage detailing typographic work for MIT Media Lab [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 18 May 2017].

[Fig. 8, 9, 10] Lawrence Abbott, (2017), Series of 3D rendering tests of kufic calligraphy [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 18 May 2017].

[Fig. 11] Lawrence Abbott. (2017). Website Teaser. [Online Video]. 15 May 2017. Available from: [Accessed: 18 May 2017].

[Fig. 12] Lawrence Abbott, (2017), ASEM, ASEM2, ASEMMOHR Development [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 18 May 2017].

[Fig. 13] Manfred Mohr, (1970), P-021 [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 18 May 2017].

[Fig. 14] Lawrence Abbott. (2017). ASEMMOHR - Test One. [Online Video]. 17 May 2017. Available from: [Accessed: 18 May 2017].

Using Format