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

Damaged Spring: Pink Noire


Project Statement

The exhibition "Love and Terror," announced for Fall 2003 in Arizona, helped provoke the production of this work. But the texts were already being written, and the sensibility with respect to the look of the book, my longstanding desire to make a distinctly neo-expressionist response to current events, had long been developing the vision that manifest fully in this work. Only the raw, edgy, harsh high-contrast of cuts, in this case, linoleum, long a favorite medium of mine, seemed sufficient to express the cruelty of fate and injustice being wrought by the current administration. Trying to figure out what was going on in the world was so difficult. All the lies and rhetorical obfuscation of media reports coupled with the anecdotal evidence of daily lives of real people, friends, family. And then the weather, with its own cruelties, seemed to damage every new bit of spring growth in one round after another of bitter winter. No way to know what happens, except by transforming all of that into form, into expression. And the shrill, almost hysterial pink-ness of the cover papers, torn and pasted, were the other gesture meant to register anger in the aesthetic of production. People have read this as a story of personal anger, sadness, and difficulty, but it was not explicitly so. Rather, a composite of all I saw around me, felt, and processed. The events in my private life seemed like another symptom, not the cause, of the mood of this book.

Production Narrative

The edition included hard-bound Rives copies and paper-bound Mohawk copies, mainly because of the cost of Rives and the work of binding. All the production was the same, otherwise, for the text and the images (all of these were printed letterpress). The most important production feature seems to be the fact that this was laid out using the images as a way to structure the openings and the book as a whole.

Critical Analysis

Design Features

typographic: Agenda was chosen for its dark, heavy bluntness. A no-frills, direct quality inheres in its forms.

imagery: Expressionistically influenced, the images were carved in linoleum to get them to become angular, somewhat harsh, and to exaggerate the emotional affect of their quality. Most have some source in a newspaper image.

graphical: Much thought was given to the page layout design -- whether to have any header or footer, how to make the text block appear on the page, how much to reference a "book" as a literary form. The book block sits on the page with quite conventional stability. But each line in the text was set in a separate text box in Quark and then given a different angle off the horizontal. The effect is meant to be disturbing, but not so radical as to prevent reading.

openings: All of the openings were structured by the images. The images were laid out first, before the text was put into the book. In every opening, a gaze connects the figures across the gutter. Only one opening has a figure who faces towards us, the man kneeling by the gravestone. He asks us to bear witness.

turnings: Changes of scale structure the shift from opening to opening.

development: The images move the reader through the book, from the hideous corpse of the starved dead bird, to the futile end.

Critical Discussion

A book about trying to get hold of what was going on. Not sure how to process the information that was coming at me that spring -- from friends, from the news, the weather, from anecdotes and observation. The awfulness of the war machine, cranking up on lies, and the sense of everything delicate, living, vulnerable being crushed. The winter kept coming back, freezing and breaking young trees, new growth. Truly a dark time. All told and processed through a personal point of view, but not about me. This isn't my personal story, the damage was not mine, except as it was collective, shared.

Detailed Analysis

The pathetic figure of that weeping woman was one of the first I carved. Her misery was so intense. And carving that block, the day of graduation at UVa, sitting in my studio, BF sitting in the chair, while we tried to decide whether to go see the Jack Nicholson movie about a man retiring. We went. Despair was everywhere. I wanted to be home carving. That block was so satisfying, its forms so communicative, seemed to provide some succour, some salvation, balm, just to make something. Had not been able to make books, or even write much that year, dreadful year without staff in the program, trying to keep things from falling apart. Didn't sleep through the night once that year. So, in the aftermath of graduation ceremony, to sit for a minute and be able to carve that block was like a reprieve.

General Comments

Rarely have I felt such desperate anger and powerless despair as that spring. Though Deterring Discourse, written at the start of the first Gulf War, had some of that emotion in it as well.



Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


Publication Information

publisher: Druckwerk

conception: 2003-01-00 Conceived and written in winter and spring 2003.
production: 2003-00-00
publication: 2003-00-00

publication history: Produced at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center, The McGuffey Art Center, and Johanna Drucker's home all in Charlottesville, Virginia. Text, images, design, and production were all done by the author. [A. Schutte]

Aesthetic Profile

artists' books (LCSH)

themes: Iraq War, Terrorism, fear, Spring 2003 [A. Schutte]

themes: Damage

content form:
experimental text (local)

publication tradition:
artists' book (local)

inspiration: Knut Hamsen, "Hunger," and Viktor Shklovsky, "War Journal." For the images, Kathe Kollwitz, Kirchner, Munch, other German expressionists.

related works: Among other Drucker works, Kidz is probably the closest in sensibility. Very few other books are as dark. From Now has some of the same compositional moves in its line by line strokes of imagery language. Deterring Discourse, because it was written at the beginning of the first Gulf War, also relates.

other influences: The news. Always the news. And communications from friends.

community: press VABC (Virginia Arts of the Book Center).

note: This expressionistic sensibility is latent in other Drucker projects, and in the unique books Yellow Dog and Mind Massage (especially the small pamphlet in Mind Massage), the drawing style and emotional intensity are similar.

reception history: Love and Terror had some notice.

Related Documents

manuscript type: correspondence

location: artist's archive

note: Because this was in the "Love and Terror" exhibition in Tucson, correspondence about that exhibit (which served as deadline and thus prompted the production of the work) is relevant.

manuscript type: other

location: artist's archive

note: The keynote talk for "Love and Terror" has direct relations to this book project.

manuscript type: texts

location: artist's archive

note: Many texts, manuscripts, and other materials for this, as well as outtakes, exist.

manuscript type: mockups

location: artist's archive

note: Mockups, trials, other designs, images, etc. all exist.

General Comments

A work of anger, despair, sadness.


Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: Druckwerk

place: Charlottesville, VA

conception: 2003-01-00 Conceived and written in winter and spring 2003.
production: 2003-00-00
publication: 2003-00-00

edition size: 25 and 75 or so. About 100 in all.


horizontal: 7.5 inches closed

vertical: 8.75 inches closed

depth: .375 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
letterpress (local)
digital laser (local)
linoleum (local)

binding: hand sewn (local) 75 in paper wrappers, 25 with paper-covered boards.

bookBlock: paper Rives
endsheets: paper Rives

ink (local)

other materials: none


format: codex (AAT)

cover: The front cover, 7 1/2" x 8 3/4", features an original collage on white paper with neon pink streaks of paper underneath four different black and white linoleum prints: a figure kneeling and shaking its fist, the word "DAMAGED," the word "SPRING," and the agent's name written "JOHANNA DRUCKER."

color: yes Streaks of hot pink paper on the front and back covers, but completely black and white inside the book


pagination: unpaginated 28 pages

numbered?: unnumbered

signed?: unsigned


In response to the events of Spring 2003. Linoleum blocks, Quark, Agenda Bold Condensed, HP LaserJet. At VABC, McGuffy, and Warren Lane in Charlottesville. Limited edition includes 25 copies on Rives, with original collages on the cover and then another 75 or so copies on Mohawk Superfine, with folded wrappers to cover. Text, images, design, production all by the author. Much love to those around me who watched this book come into being and shared the changes of this wretched season.

General Comments

George Riser was one of the most perceptive readers of this book. His comments on it were most gratifying. He also noted that it probably wouldn't find its readership, especially not immediately, given its complexity. He was right, of course.