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Production Narrative

by P. Berger

My work began with this arena of the printed page as a format and a context. The work was originally a wall piece composed of twenty-two “double-page spreads”, each one a 19”x24” black-and-white silver gelatin print composed of many complex multiple printings in the darkroom. These “opened book” simulations were printed in the 11”x17” format size of a standard magazine, and as such were “camera-ready” when the Seattle Subtext Series (1981-82) was printed as a book at VSW Press in 1984.

Critical Analysis

by P. Berger

General Comments

While the "shape" of the 22 double page spreads in Seattle Subtext invokes the magazine double-page spread, it departs from it in the following ways: (1) Columns of text have been replaced by columns of overlapped television imagery; (2) The topics of the pages shift from the normal magazine section headlines ("Nation," "Show Business") to more generalized, fictionalized or personalized areas ("Writing," "Memory"); (3) The visual cadence of the imagery becomes more akin to film, television, or computer display than to the mass distribution magazine; and (4) Pages labeled "Display", which occur in between the major topic sections contain annotated versions of the pages that both precede and follow them, creating image/text echoes and refrains from the “database” that the major topic sections are drawn from. This work was my first project that involved the use of the computer. It was used to both manage the visual database of imagery (in a program I wrote myself), and to supply imagery in the form of database listings and graphic maps that dominate the “Display” pages. Seattle Subtext is an imaginary and reordered magazine. By drawing on the conventions of "layout," it becomes possible to construct complex relationships among still photographs and television imagery, typeset captions and computer text. These relationships posit a personalized environment of great density and simultaneity in a format usually thought of as fixed and given (the magazine), and anticipates the eventual domination by the format that comes to maturity some 10-15 years later: the World Wide Web. []

Critical Analysis

by T. Shaw

Design Features

typographic: Typographic inclusions consist of headlines and captions to pictures of the type found in magazine layout. Otherwise, all typography is found and part of vernacular news media traditions as well as standard computer encoding interfaces.

imagery: Imagery ranges from politicians' Pseudo Events, computer machinery, televised news, sports, and public interest events, religious and government monuments, advertisements, window displays, art installations, found family photographs, and mapping schematics.

graphical: Much of the graphical information comes from photographic reproductive means. In this case, many of the pictures are pictures of moving pictures, i.e. screen grabs, and video-still, which lends a linear structure to many pictures. Because of their obvious reproductive status, a loss of image is signified. The graphical layout takes place within a multi-column magazine format giving the whole a moving-image quality.

openings: Because the graphics are layed-out in various columns, the openings reveal and create contextual relationships between the picture streams.

turnings: The turnings are more or less consistent throughout and adhere to the magazine format.

development: The book is delineated with sections, each with their own heading or subheading. Each division dovetails with the next and has repeated imagery.

sequence: There is a clear shift from public, found imagery into private, found imagery as the book progresses though themes repeat and interweave between public and private throughout.

textual: Some textual references are found news clips, song lyrics, quotations, illustrative notations, location descriptions, medium references, and occassional memory writing.

structure: Structured in the form of a news magazine like Time or Newsweek.

conceptual: "An imaginary and reordered magazine, a hypothetical alteration of the context and composition of all the 'information' that pours into ones home." --from the Introduction by Berger.

intratextual: Multiple intratextual relationships between headlines, pictures, and thier captions.

Critical Discussion

This multi-layered project is exemplary of many critical/historical subjects: photography as a form of writing, analysis of the book as interface, and making art of data and from databases.

Detailed Analysis

Seattle Subtext


Paul Berger

type: initiating


birth: 1951-00-00

note: []

Visual Studies Workshop Press

type: initiating


location: Rochester, New York

The Real Comet Press

type: initiating


location: Seattle, Washington

note: Seattle Subtext is the first and only co-publication by these presses [T. Shaw]

National Endowment for the Arts, USA

type: other

unknown Grant support for the publication

Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: Visual Studies Workshop and The Real Comet Press

place: Rochester, New York and Seattle, Washington

production: 1984-00-00


vertical: 11 inches closed

horizontal: 8.25 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
offset (local)

binding: smyth sewing (AAT)

bookBlock: paper

ink (local)


general description:

format: codex (AAT)

cover: Paper

color: no


pagination: unpaginated 48 pages

numbered?: unnumbered

signed?: unsigned