Johanna Drucker - Word and Flesh

Johanna Drucker is a book artist, cultural critic, and historian of letterforms. Her work displays a sympathy for themes of the palpable against the textual which is pure Pynchon. Unlike Pynchon, however, this concern manifests itself as an experiment with visible language, and as an interest in the language of images. Just as Pynchon presents a glyphic textuality through a diction that suggests multiple vectors of signification, Drucker presents a glyphic visual space, where images represent a language all their own. Pictures and text inhabit the same space in her work, and more than one line of text weaves through her pages. Her images, many taken from 1950s America, reference popular culture, scientific data, and other oddments. Her text is a parodic exploration/exploitation of popular mythologies. Thus, Drucker asserts, "In the beginning was the world, nursed on the warm breast of chaos, fast following a night of hard publicity".

Drucker's work represents a kind of genre or field miscegenation, and as far as is possible within the page-space, she attempts to break down conventions such as linear page-turning, straight-narrative, or the notion that images merely augment text. Indeed, Drucker's images often seem to be the entree, and her text merely commentary on them. Her diction takes hold of the famous lofty abstractions of western literature and brings them down to earth with highly tangible description. Thus "Time" with a capital 'T' becomes "soft, fat, slow time" with a small 't'. In other words, these abstractions, in Drucker's imagination, are embodied. One guesses that Oedipa, in her desperation, might have wished to perform this same imaginative trick with the shifty Trystero - to see it, taste it, touch it - to subject it to her senses and the senses of everyone around her in an effort to demystify it and commune with it.

And Drucker, like Oedipa, continues to labor on after these grand paralyzing abstractions in a world full of academics and critics still mesmerized by the glyph. Like much interdisciplinary work, the book arts are a ghettoized form. In contrast with the highly commodified worlds of the contemporary novel or the visual arts, Drucker's liminal work and the context of its production fly below the radar of most literary and art critics.


Johanna Drucker at Granary Press >>
PMC, "Through Light and the Alphabet": An Interview with Joanna Drucker, May, 1997. >>