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An Introduction to the Work of Johanna Drucker

Druckwerk // Book Works
by Johanna Drucker

The books in this virtual exhibit represent most of the editioned books I've done since 1972. Their presentation represents an experiment in creating online access to a body of work, and is the first of what will hopefully be many such exhibits on ABsOnline. It was created by Annie Schutte, who has worked to create the information architecture and design of this site.

My artist's books are obscure in two senses. First, they are difficult to access since they are created in very small editions and reside in private or institutional collections. Books are notoriously difficult to either reproduce or exhibit, and though many of these have been shown open in cases or reproduced in one or two representative photographs, they have not had a wide readership. Second, my work is experimental and difficult in its content. The writing is dense and figured, the layout and page structures often complex. They take time to look through and read. Our hope is that this mode of digital presentation will permit access in satisfactory way.

Three major themes can be used to divide these books into general categories. A number of other books don't fall squarely into any of these, and are miscellaneous tales, poems, works inspired by an incident, friend, or other ephemeral impulse. But the bulk of these books are concerned with one of the following issues: the visual potential of language as an aspect of meaning, received narratives for women's lives, the language of news and current events.

Experiments in visual language explore the ways typography can be used to enhance and transform meaning production on the page. Some of the main books concerned with these explorations are: 26 76, From A to Z, Tongues, Against Fiction, Through Light and the Alphabet, The Word Made Flesh, Sample Dialogue, Prove Before Laying, and Quantum.

Narratives taken from popular culture and literature often offer forms through which women imagine their lives will be lived. I've been interested in feminist readings and alternatives, as well as in the fantasmatic effect of such received narratives. These form the content and inspiration for: History of the/my World, Narratology, Simulant Portrait, A Girl's Life, Damaged Spring.

The language of news and current events haunts me, even as public discourse divorces itself further and further from any referent in the real. I've used this issue as a starting point for a number of books, including: Just As, The Current Line, Deterring Discourse, From Now.

Other works belong in their own categories, or have elements of poem-tales, stories, playful imaginings, or other frameworks: Jane, Scrap, Dark, As No Storm, Kidz, Surprize Party, It Happens, Otherspace, Night Crawlers, Emerging Sentience, Experience of the Medium, Nova Reperta, and so on.

The books are varied in their materials, approach, degree of illustration, type of writing and, issues, themes, and formats. But all of that information will be found in the metadata records that can be accessed by moving through the exhibition.