Project Statement: This book was a direct response to the conditions we were experiencing in the early 1990s. The sense that public discourse had taken a sharp, Orwellian turn away from any relation to a referent in the real, and that a newSpeak sensibility was proliferating was accompanied by an anxious sense of repression. Self-censorship and overt attacks on real public dialogue were increasingly prevalent. Where a balanced discussion on a news program had once reflected a broad range of political beliefs, conversations were increasingly between extreme and middle-of-the road conservatives. The feeling that poetry, creative language, political essays, direct writing, and other forms of alternative cultural expression were essential to keeping open a window or space in the rapidly closing, locking-down realm of language was urgent and compelling. It still is, more than a decade later, writing this commentary in 2006.
Project Statement. In the late 1980s, I was still involved in working on the biography of Ilia Zdanevich (Iliazd), begun in 1985 when I was a Fulbright Fellow in Paris, working on my dissertation. That biography went through many iterations, and was finally left unpublished after Northwestern cancelled my contract. I had lost interest in the project, swept up in other matters, but the process of research and synthesis from documents and snippets of different kinds of materials had touched a nerve. I found this utterly satisfying to a certain obsessive streak. And so the structures of biography-writing, with all their connect-the-dots assumptions, varieties and ranges of sources and voices, evidence and documents, etc., were extremely appealing. Structurally, then, Simulant Portrait was conceived to mimic that process of research. Thematically the book was closer to older themes, of women and their lives, biographies and celebrity, the tensions of mass and literary culture in my own mind, and so on. The cyber-pulp aspect of the book is harder to place, as my proclivities were hardly sci-fi at that moment. Only that such notions were in the air, with Philip K. Dick (particularly the film Blade Runner) and William Gibson (rising star) occupying a certain popular imagination.
by J. Drucker
Several themes interweave in this book: a feminist rewriting of the history of the world, an opposition between official history and personal memory, a critique of feminist theoretical attitudes towards language as patriarchal, and all sorts of graphical and textual puns and play. The book is a tribute to my mother, and the drum majorette who opens the book is a figure that corresponds to her early years, youth, and activities as a baton twirling teen in Downer’s Grove, Illinois. I had learned language, and literature, through an intense and intimate relation with her. The feminist dogma of language as patriarchal didn’t fit the erotic and personal experience of my relation to the literary through the relation to her, even male identified as she was. She may have been the law, and the symbolic, but she was fiercely feminine and feminist as well. So the red text erupts through the black, making memory a strain of presence within the history retold.
by J. Drucker
The Word Made Flesh and its immediate predecessor, Through Light and the Alphabet, were both made as distinct formulations in response to theoretical issues in writing and ecriture. Both address the status of materiality in visual presentation of poetic work. Both are direct responses to the work of Jacques Derrida, and also, to the dictates and orthodoxies of many of the California Language Poets whose work and lives had been so intimately bound to mine. The typographic format of the Word Made Flesh was meant to trip the eye, return one constantly to the plane of discourse, of material production. I made this book, and Through Light and the Alphabet, out of complete love of letters. Probably more than any other of my books, these two are absolute celebrations of the beauty and expressive capability of type.
by J. Drucker
This book was conceived as a typographic fugue, a work in which each new graphic theme was taken up, played with, and incorporated into those preceding. The book was inspired in part by the absolutely beautiful Caslon type we had acquired at UC Berkeley for use in the Architecture School, Visual Studies studio. The text is a polemic against the limits of language as the defining boundary of experience or sentience. The book was done in the final months in which I was in Berkeley, finished as I finished my Ph.D. work in Ecriture, and as I completed the work on my dissertation on avant-garde and experimental typography.The point of the project was to use material means, typographic possibilities, to proliferate meaning within a single text.
Project Statement: This book was created as a New Year’s greeting at the beginning of 1982. The text was extracted from Simon Frith’s The Tongues of Man, a short study of the history of language. The procedure for extraction was to take every other word, then every third, fourth, fifth etc. in sequence out of each successive section or chapter. This produced the short texts in the book. These were set in Stymie light and printed letterpress. The images were made through successive impressions all accumulating in sequence, some from paint, ink, tissues, twigs, cardboard, and anything else capable of making a repeatable mark.The images were created at the time that I was beginning to do event drawings, and they are definitely of that deconstructed and dynamic variety.
Project Statement: The premise of this book was to take the type in 48 drawers of type, make a text that made sense, and use all of the elements in the fonts once and only once. The book was to be a pseudo-bibliography, and an expose of the peculiar character and activities of all the people I had met during the time I worked as a staff typesetter at the West Coast Print Center. The project succeeded, and all of the type was used (with the exception of a few numbers and some punctuation). Composing the work was akin to doing an elaborate scrabble game. Every letter in the book corresponds to a character. Each letter of the alphabet is consistently used. Each character has a page with a poem and commentary, and a strange colophon on the verso made up of the sorts. Throughout the book a narrative recounts character A’s versions of the events that unfold in the “non-relationship” she is having with a certain Z on whom she has a crush. The marginal notes are all specific references to imagined conversations, excerpts from letters, diaries, reviews, and all are numbered. The specific circumstances of their production are explained in the footnotes at the end of the book, pages set in an insane, manic night in which all the sorts in the cases were used up in the setting of these crazed, paragon-dense, cryptic but legible passages. Every element in the book relates to every other element, and the whole is a tightly woven, hermetically perfect set of interlocking references. A world, literary, social, gossipy, narrative, and mercilessly and wickedly drawn. All characters were real, but their identities were changed in gender and age so that they were barely recognizable, with the exception of a few whose poetic styles were unmistakable. I was certain the book would provoke furious response, and I left town just as I put it into the hands of the poets who had served as its inspiration. I needn’t have worried. Few recognized themselves, fewer cared. The book remains the virtuosic triumph of that early period, unlike anything else and unlikely ever to be imitated or replicated. Letterpress printers who saw me during the time this was being produced thought it was a crazed project.