The Awesomeness of ASCII

I dislike the adjective awesome, and I generally refrain from using it.

When I hear it, the word brings to mind a vivid image – namely, dreadlocked Australians standing around on an extraordinarily hot beach, drinking tasteless lager out of diminutive bottles whilst cradling surfboards and attesting to their particular levels of stoked-ness at some singularly uninteresting event or achievement.

There is not a single element within that vision that does not give me the creeps, and I therefore have tried to avoid experiencing it by dropping the word awesome from my vocabulary.

However, I have recently produced a couple of pieces of ASCII art that cannot be accurately assessed without this word.  Even an objective reviewer has to concede that Darksome ASCII and ASCIIville are awesome works of art, or – if they won’t concede this – explain why their judgement is so obviously impaired.

I have included the two pieces in this post so that you may judge them for yourselves.  For now, I wish to talk for a bit about the wonderful medium of ASCII.

I have long appreciated ASCII art, something I became aware of as a curious thirteen-year-old.  I feel it is the most inventive and subversive medium since that bloke wrote his name on a urinal and stuck it in a conventional art gallery (presumably an act that greatly perplexed the stuffy septuagenarians who organised the thing).  Today there remain many accomplished ASCII artists active on the internet, silently plying their noble craft without the need for fanfare or plaudits, keeping the flame of creativity burning.

Johnny Fisher – ‘ASCIIville’ (2011)

Why do I love it so?  There is something inventive and fecund in the ability to depict complex shapes and characters using only the limited figures of the ASCII character set; something that hints at independence and self-reliance.  In this sense it is truly a libertarian art-form; one that stands in complete opposition to the bulk of what constitutes Modern Art, reliant as it is on state subsidies, uncritical reviews from left-leading publications, and an idle lifestyle funded by wealthy parents named things like Tristram and Arabella.

ASCII art is versatile, allowing an inventive artist to depict any image he cares to; and more importantly it looks great, bringing to mind the classic video games of the 1980s.  ASCII art has an immeasurably pleasing aesthetic quality that any fan of sci-fi will cherish.  I predict that the admirals of our future star fleets will choose ASCII art fonts for all onboard monitoring display consoles and for the keypad overlays of their targeting computers.

I also firmly believe that if Michelangelo were alive today he would fully embrace the medium of ASCII art, recognising its aesthetic quality and amazing versatility. He would abandon his frescos entirely, launching his pigment palette out the window, frisbee-style, at some elderly cardinal in a ridiculous hat.

It is quite a thing to imagine.  Think how different the Sistine Chapel would look were its ancient roof covered in ASCII art instead of religious frescos.  What a glorious thing to behold, and what a monument to progress!

Johnny Fisher – ‘Darksome ASCII’ (2011)

In fact, I believe this is something the Pope should look into.  The Catholic church – mired as it is in scandals related to child molestation and its refusal to promote the use of Joe-bags – badly needs to update its image and modernise in order to appeal to the youth of today.  Plastering the roofs of its chapels with ASCII art and replacing its boringly austere, halo-heavy triptychs with cutting-edge sci-fi montages would represent a huge step forward in this policy of modernisation.  In the face of such a blisteringly trendy marketing campaign, the kiddie-fiddling uproar would presumably just disappear, melting away like a priest’s cassock in an isolated Sacristy.

And it shouldn’t end with the Church.  The whole world of Modern Art needs a shake-up.

Something needs to fill the current vacuum, for we are being served up naught but nonsense and shite by the vacuous socialites that constitute today’s artists.  Pravda – or what is commonly referred to as The Guardianlast week reported (favourably, of course) on the Royal Academy’s intention to appoint Tracey Emin to the position of  Professor of Drawing!  I despaired when I read the report.  As a soiler of bedclothes Emin has no rival, but as a doodler there are perhaps five billion humans alive today who could better her perverted scribbles.

In order for us ASCII artists to step into the limelight and blow cretins like the insufferable Young British Artists and their talentless dreck out of the water, all that is required is an endorsement of a piece of ASCII art from Lord Saatchi, that insatiable collector of farcical crap.  He’ll buy anything as long as it is insanely overpriced (and especially if it is devoid of any artistic merit whatsoever).  Once he does, hundreds of champagne-swilling idiots will kill each other as the art establishment stampedes to galleries for a chance to pay vast sums of money for pieces of ASCII art.

The ASCII revolution is inevitable.  The old guard, with their fixed-wheel bicycles and outlandish fringes, will soon need to move over.  Preferably so far over that they remove themselves entirely from society and relocate back to their parents’ country piles.