Johanna Drucker's Artist Books
An online repository of facsimiles, metadata, and commentary

Deterring Discourse


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.

Production Narrative

The production of this book should have been fairly easy, but somehow the two-sided laser printing ended up causing problems. Maybe the ink and paper overheated, causing jams in the printer, or else it was the curl of the paper caused by the heat of the digital printer that made the paper feed badly, but it wasn't easy at all. The use of a scanner to make the images was liberating, and the text design and book design were meant to create a small, compact little work. Binding was easy, and the edition would have been bigger it if hadn't been for the nuisance of printing.

Critical Analysis

Design Features

typographic: Stymie, always a great idea, though in this case, in the Mac font form of Memphis, I believe. Square serifs have such a striking boldness to them. I love the "Egyptian" faces.

imagery: From newspapers, as is often the case, in this situation, distorted by having the originals manipulated on a scanner and then in Photoshop.

graphical: A tight, clean page layout that allows text and image equal weight.

Critical Discussion

Another of the dark books, necessarily so, as they are responses to the state of public discourse and culture. This book was intended to circulate with a certain freedom and autonomy, rather than to live in the rarified world of artists' books. The small size, short paragraphs, dense language, suggestive and provocative images and color of the covers were all highly contemporary.



Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


Publication Information

publisher: Druckwerk

production: 1992-00-00:1993-00-00
publication: 1993-00-00

publication history: A small edition of this work was produced. It was designed for ongoing production and publication, but in fact, was issued only once, in 1993.

Aesthetic Profile

artists' books (LCSH)

content form:
narrative (local)
experimental text (local)

publication tradition:
artists' book (local)

inspiration: Bruce Andrews, Blaise Cendrars, and Viktor Shklovsky.

related works: This book is in the news-response genre of A Current Line, Damaged Spring, From Now, and Dark Decade.

other influences: The "first" Gulf War, state of the media, the hideous disconnect between political language and reality.

community: other Poets and writers in New York, and Brad Freeman.

note: One of the darkest expressions of frustration I've produced.

Related Documents

manuscript type: texts

location: artist's archive

manuscript type: mockups

location: artist's archive


Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: Druckwerk

place: New York, NY

production: 1992-00-00:1993-00-00
publication: 1993-00-00


horizontal: 4.5 inches closed

vertical: 5.5 inches closed

depth: .1 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
digital laser (local)

binding: hand sewn (local)

bookBlock: paper



format: codex (AAT)

cover: The cover is orange neon paper with the title, Deterring Discourse, printed in black upper-case characters at the top. Five arrows splay out underneath pointing towards and away from the title.

color: no


pagination: unpaginated 30 pages

numbered?: unnumbered

signed?: unsigned


Produced in an ongoing edition on Mac and LaserWriter somewhere between the end of 1992 and the beginning of 1993. For information: J.D.; 601 W. 115th Street #94; New York, NY 10025

Related Documents

manuscript type: texts

location: artist's archive

manuscript type: mockups

location: artist's archive