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

Emerging Sentience


Project Statement

Emerging Sentience was produced for the Poetry Plastique exhibition organized by Charles Bernstein and Jay Sanders at the Marianne Boesky Gallery. The conceptual foundation of the project is expressed concisely in its title: to make a work about sentience as an emergent property of intelligent systems. The original text had been written some time before, as one of the pieces in Deterring Discourse.

Production Narrative

Text was written by Johanna Drucker; digital prepress, photographs, and printing were done by Brad Freeman. The digital film for this book was produced through the Institute for Electronic Arts (iea) at Alfred University, Alfred, N.Y., and imageset on a SelectSet Avantra 25 S provided by AGFA Corporation. Printed on Mohawk Superfine and Monadnock Astrolite (both neutral pH) with Wikoff Sunfast Ink at Nexus Press in Atlanta. [A. Schutte]

Critical Analysis

Design Features

typographic: The same plain, sans-serif font is used throughout this book in different sizes and colors. The two main type colors throughout the book are 85pt white type, and silver type that ranges from 14pt to 45 pt. There are main readings of the text: all of the type can be read as one complete text, or only the white text can be read for another succinct reading. Other colors that appear are burgundy type on the title page, and black type for the colophon. [A. Schutte]

imagery: Multiple visual approaches are used in this work including scanning, layering, and hue changes. Scanning: the images used in this work include photographs, and scanned objects and images. The photographs are photographs taken by Brad Freeman. The scans are also executed by Brad, and include elements of his body. Pages 13 and 14 depict scans of Brad's foot, the first his right foot with a sock on and the second his left foot barefoot. Page 16, which is repeated on the 3 subsequent pages, depicts Brad's face pressed against the scanner. Page 21 depicts Brad's hand holding a photograph of Johanna sitting at a table working on writing the text. Layering: two pages have text and images seeping and layering onto them. On page 5 the title and authors' names can be seen faintly, taking on the color of the background, as if they are seeping into the page. The title page, page 7, includes multiple layers. One of the layers seen is the text and image of page 9, which seems to seep through the page and come up on the page above it (page 7) because the entire page of page 9 can be seen lightly on page 7. Hue changes: different pages in the work are done in different tone sets. For example, the pages depicting clouds are all in blue and gray tones. Images of the house are depicted in sepia-gray tones. And pages 14, 16, 17, and 18 are done in vibrant red-green contrast with solarization effects at points. [A. Schutte]

graphical: A number of interesting design approaches appear in this text including repeating pages and images, spill-over images, and pieced together images. Repeating images: The image on page 16, for example, is mirrored into the background of page 17, mirrored again into the background of page 18, and then mirrored slightly into the bottom corner of page 19. Repeating pages: The endsheets display the same image in slightly different color tones, and the first and last pages are also the same in slightly different color tones. Spill-over pages: certain images span more than one page. One image of Johanna at her computer spans pages 17 and 18. Cloud images frequently span multiple pages including pages 2 and 3; pages 4 and 5; pages 6 and 7; pages 24 and 25; pages 26, 27, 28, and 29; and pages 30 and 31. Pieced images: included in the work are three images of a house that can be pieced together to create a more complete image of the side of the house (pages 15, 19, and 23). [A. Schutte]

openings: Double-sided pages with some images spanning facing pages or the front and back of a page. [A. Schutte]

sequence: Interesting sequences include: pages 15, 19, and 23 which can be pieced together to get a fuller image of the house; pages 16 through 19 which contain both a spanning image and a repeating mirror image; and the cloud images that fill about half of the book and appear on the covers. [A. Schutte]

Detailed Analysis

The title page on page 7 is the one place in the work where clouds and people overlap and can be seen together. This page contains three main layers of images. One layer is the cloud photograph that extends over to page 7 from page 6. Another layer comes from page 9; it is as if the image and words from page 9 (directly underneath page 7) have seeped up into the page. The silhouette of the back of Johanna's head and her laptop are visible from page 9, and also the words from that page: "a new phallic tongue installed for the dim pleasure center to relax with. The process of thought seeps according to an ancient organic metaphor through the synaptic mirror of my soul." The operative words in this prose seem to be "the process of thought seeps" as the page does just this. The image here is transparent, and clouds can be seen through the image of Johanna, as well as surrounding her. [A. Schutte]



Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


Brad Freeman

type: initiating


Publication Information

publisher: JAB Books

publication: 2001-00-00

publication history: This work exists in two forms: as a book, and as a wall hanging made up of the pages of the book. [A. Schutte]

Aesthetic Profile

postmodern (AAT)

artists' books (LCSH)

themes: intimacy, familiar space, collaboration, knowledge, memory, technophilia [A. Schutte]

content form:
experimental text (local)

publication tradition:
visual poetry (local)

community: other Marianne Boesky Gallery [A. Schutte]

note: This is a collaborative work, with Johanna Drucker writing the text, and Brad Freeman taking the photographs, doing the digital prepress, and printing the book. [A. Schutte]

Exhibition Information

exhibition history: Emerging Sentience was written, designed, and produced for the exhibition, Poetry Plastique, at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, February-March 2001.

Related Documents

manuscript type: other

location: artist's archive

note: In the Artists' Statement, Johanna Drucker and Brad Freeman describe their motivations for creating Nova Reperta (1999) and Emerging Sentience (2000).

manuscript type: mockups

location: artist's archive

note: A series of Johanna Drucker's hand-written and computer printed mocukps of the text only with no images. The mockups include: the entire text written as one block, the entire text written as a block with the white line of text in bold, the white text drawn out in groupings of four pages, the full text and white text broken apart by page, various edited copies, a set of 8 1/2" x 11" page mockups of the work, and a copy of the text emailed from Johanna Drucker to Brad Freeman with his subsequent edits on it.

manuscript type: texts

location: artist's archive

note: This is the exhibition catalogue put out for Poetry Plastique by Marianne Boesky Gallery and Granary Books. It includes introductions by the show's curators: Jay Sanders and Charles Bernstein. It also includes an essay written by Johanna Drucker entitled, "Plastic Modalities: Emerging Sentience," and essays written by other contributing artists and poets.

manuscript type: mockups

location: artist's archive

note: This is a set of true-to-size page mockups with text only, and inserted notes about the images and layout.


Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: JAB Books

place: Atlanta, Georgia

publication: 2001-00-00


horizontal: 11 inches closed

vertical: 16.5 inches closed

depth: .4 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
offset (local)

binding: other jacquonette, with silk spine and hand-sewn signatures

endsheets: paper Mohawk Superfine and Monadnock Astrolite
bookBlock: paper Mohawk Superfine and Monadnock Astrolite

ink (local)

other materials: peach and gold fabric used as binding tape


general description: The book measures 16.5 inches tall and 11 inches wide, with a depth of .4 inches. The book is hard bound on the left, opening on the right. The book is hand bound with white string and uses a peach fabric with a gold shimmery underlay. This fabric binding extends about 1 3/8 inches onto the front cover and about 1 3/8 inches onto the back cover. When opened up, the book lays flat and throughout the book the white string from the binding is visible.

format: codex (AAT)

cover: At first glance, the front cover of the book looks like blue-gray marbelized paper, but in actuality, the area not taken up by the binding--a 16.5 inch high by 9 5/8 inch wide rectangle of space--is filled with a high resolution photograph of clouds in the sky, with a very small silhouette of an old-fashioned looking airplane in the middle. On the front cover, the airplane fills approximately a 1/2 inch square space. The airplane appears to be tilted up on its side in the air so that the full wingspan is viewable as if one is looking at the plane from underneath or from overtop. The binding that is visible takes up a 1 3/8 inch strip on the left of the cover. It is bound with peach fabric that has a gold shimmery underlay to it. No writing appears on the front cover.

color: yes


pagination: unpaginated 16 pages, 32 sides

numbered?: numbered

signed?: signed


emerging sentience was written, designed, and produced for the exhibition, Poetry Plastique, at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, February--March 2001. text by Johanna Drucker. photographs, digital prepress and printing by Brad Freeman. the digital film for this book was produced through the Institute for Electronic Arts (iea) at Alfred University, Alfred, N.Y., and imageset on a SelectSet Avantra 25 S provided by AGFA Corporation. Printed on Mohawk Superfine and Monadnock Astrolite (both neutral pH) with Wikoff Sunfast Ink at Nexus Press in Atlanta. in an edition of 50 copies numbered, signed and bound by the artists.