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Production Narrative

by J. Drucker

I began this project thinking that it would be easy to produce the text and images on a Mac. I had not used a Mac, only an IBM at that point, and didn't own a Mac. I was at Columbia, and could use the Mac Lab by pretending to be a student. I went in and began to try to produce the text, but was fairly clueless. I didn't even know the difference between click and doubleclick on a mouse until MaryAnn O'Loughlin, my old buddy from Paris (who taught Mac skills as part of her work), came and gave me a few hours of basic instruction. I didn't know anything about page layout programs, or software, and ended up setting the entire book in MacWord or MacWrite (whichever, I can't remember), printing out the texts at school in fairly crude paper prints, and then doing the entire layout using a piece of glass, a lightbulb, and either glue stick or some equivalent. The photographs were straight ahead black and white glossies from a strip of film I shot of MaryAnn. Then the collages were done right on top of them and reshot by Brad Freeman from the layout. I did the entire layout on regular, old-fashioned pre-press boards, camera-ready. The little images in the book, the pixel drawings, were done in MacPaint or MacDraw to look like they were scanned images, but they were just little drawings of faces, not based on any photographic original. The entire thing was quite "simulated" in that sense. Doing the layout was a bit of an ordeal. It was really hot in New York, I felt quite alone sitting in that apartment on 115th Street. Had a bit of a crush on the guy upstairs who was between his boyfriend and his pregnant wife-to-be. We watched David Lynch films and he paid no attention to me beyond the merest formality. But he did introduce me to Ellen Lupton and Abbott Miller that summer, for which I'm grateful. They were still quite young, not established, but they were very very sure I would not want to have a book produced with "the jaggies" in it! How wrong they were! I always have loved the way this book looks, typographically, and only regret the bad cover design. Very weak, as has too often been the case with my books. Anyway, I remember the air in NY was thick, that grey soup that comes with summer humidity in the polluted North East, and I leaned over that damn lightbulb and sheet of cheap glass from a picture frame bought at the dime store at 110th and Broadway, and I tried not to sweat too much into the layout. I had promised Brad I'd have the whole mockup to him by sometime in July, so I did, but that also meant writing the whole thing, and getting it all printed out and laid out in a short window -- late May through late July. I'd only heard about the grant in early Spring, I think, and first met with Brad in March in Philadelphia to talk about the production parameters. Still, it was one of those marathon production times that can be extremely satisfying, even if it was exhausting. I went off to the Berkshires after that, and spent a month at Geoff Young's, in his barn, working on Theorizing Modernism. As is so often the case, the creative project and academic project were twinned.

Critical Analysis

by J. Drucker

Design Features

typographic: Early MacIntosh typography, system fonts, all jaggies deliberate, to create an early cyborg aesthetic.

imagery: Photos to have the somewhat slick look of women's magazines or features in Life. Or at least, to reference them a bit.

graphical: The design has several parts, consistent throughout, to divide the different orders of discourse, a common feature of my work. So various narrative levels and voices are separated by the design treatment -- headlines, body text, imitations of literary genres, notes, comments by the supposed author and by the supposed simulant. Each level of design has a consistent voice, consistent treatment, and is distinctive as well as distinguished by its point size, treatment, placement on the page etc. Highly organized and highly structured.

openings: These are consistent as well, with chapter openings, body of the text, etc. all following a single formula for all the chapters. The exception is the front matter, table of contents and introduction, where thematic and narrative notes are introduced. Even there, the materials are thematically organized in clearly distinguished graphical treatments. Also referencing what was, at that time at least, some of the graphic structure and format/style of women's magazines.

turnings: Variety from spread to spread, even in the consistent treatment, is meant to keep the reader's interest.

development: Textual, rather than graphical.

Critical Discussion

This book presumes to tell the tale of a second-generation replicant, a "Simulant," from the point of view of her fictive biographer. The idea was that first generation cyborgs had no history, no idiosyncracies, and insufficient personal neurosis to enter into meaningful inter-personal relationships. So as the new generation was being designed, it was determined that they should all have elaborate histories written for them, filled with personal memory and individual lived lives. Supposedly, the author of this book was the person hired to write the story of the simulant, her autobiography. Hence the title page "auto" "bio" "mono" graph "y" subtitle to the subtitle. Because the replicant in this case was a little dim, she was particularly attracted to the autobiographies of film stars and celebrities. The author tried to interest her in literary forms as well, and literary personnages. These literary texts appear on the upper right corner of the second spread of each chapter. All the levels of text interlink in this work. Each carries a different part of the narrative and each could be discussed in detail.

Detailed Analysis

The overlay and intersection of texts (letters and words) shows how close this is to The Word Made Flesh chronologically, even though it is very different thematically. The I/Her with "she" in the background also shows its connection to History of the/my Wor(l)d, with its various split subjectivities. The jaggies are highly exaggerated here, as are the shadows.

The titles and banners across the top and corners of the spread identify the different textual elements. Headlines about the chapter contents are listed at left, and rhyme with rather than repeat chapter titles (e.g. "Humble Beginnings" becomes "Not Born" in the opening title of Chapter 1.). "A Life Lived" "as information" describes the double texts that follow on that page. "Rhetorics" and "programming the extant" are brackets defining the field in which the right hand page texts are operating -- at the level of machine consciousness and machine language (the cyborg's own sensibility and awareness of interior life). The "notes" at the bottom left introduce the cyborg and also the author, the split her/I, she/me subject of the authored texts. The comment next to the image on the upper right is just to give it voice, albeit a mute one. Dense page.

The face is MaryAnn's, the infant in the picture is me, held by my then very young mom, her lean cheek and small chin showing her youth. All this pasted together on the black and white glossy in production along with the banner headlines. All the motifs here such as drop shadows on the boxees, type, and patterns in the backgrounds, were part of then current magazine design. Deliberately quoted.

General Comments

The sheer density of this book and number of references and ideas in the text made it seem almost like a blueprint or sketch for a much longer book. Maybe so. Certainly the issue of how we invent a subject position from a feminist point of view remains a pressing matter. [J. Drucker]

Simulant Portrait


Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


born: United States
active: United States
citizenship: United States

birth: 1952-05-30

Pyramid Atlantic

type: initiating


location: Maryland

note: The grant for this project came from Pyramid Atlantic, thanks to Betsy Davids. This grant prompted the project. [J. Drucker]

Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: Druckwerk and Pyramid Atlantic

place: New York, NY and Maryland.

production: 1990-03-15 Production took place from March through July, 1990.
publication: 1990-08-30

note: The printing took place at the Borowsky Center at the University of the Arts, thanks to an arrangement between Helen Frederick (Pyramid) and Patti Smith (University of the Arts). Brad Freeman was doing his MFA at University of the Arts and was a fellow and printer as well, hence his involvement. [J. Drucker]


horizontal: 7.25 inches closed

vertical: 8.5 inches closed

depth: .2 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
digital laser (local)
offset (local)

binding: mashine sewn (local)

bookBlock: paper Warren's lustro
endsheets: paper Warren's lustro

ink (local)

other materials: none


general description:

format: codex (AAT)

cover: paper

color: yes


pagination: unpaginated 48 pages

numbered?: unnumbered

signed?: unsigned


For those of you wondering why the type looks so bad, why I would print a book in such godawful, hairy fuzzed printout, well, so much for amateur use of sophisticated equiptment: this is Macked on a laserwriter, not a Linotronic, because of the endless hassles encountered in the course of June 1990 trying to get my files converted into something printable, running around NYC in the hot edge of summer, losing my temper, sense of humor, amd all regard for quality in the process. Many thanks, however, to all who offered the kind of advice which might have helped--Susan Bee, Abbott Miller, Gino Lee and the various now anonymous technicians at services and sites throughout the city. The book has been printed on Warren's lustro something, more or less archival, we hope, under the careful, attentive eye of Brad Freeman, at the Borowsky Center at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Thanks to Lois Johnson, who provided production advice and support. Much thanks to Helen Frederick at Pyramid Atlantic, 6111 66th Avenue, Riverdale, Maryland 20840, without whose initial interest this would never have happened. Pyramid Atlantic provided funding from the Maryland State Arts council, Ruth and Marvin Sackner, and private sources, and for that, I am, of course, grateful to eternity.

Exhibition Information

exhibition history: Various, see CV.

reception history: Matt Kirschenbaum has been the best reader and fan of this work.