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

Just As


Project Statement

Just As is one of the books I conceived as a dialogue with popular culture forms, traditional fiction and prose production, and the problem of finding forms to process the experience of contemporary life. I was living in Oakland at the time I produced this in the warehouse. I'd worked at the Oakland Museum and East Bay Regional Park District in 1979-80, and had gone back to school at Berkeley. Judith Barry helped me get this L.I.N.E. grant, and I'd met her through Bertrand Augst, my advisor and beloved mentor. I had reconnected with the poetry scene, and all of the images in this book are drawn from real places and experiences in Oakland and San Francisco. The warehouse, downtown, 80 Langton Street, the museum, all are part of this book, as are the weird science fiction and popular culture dreams of the early 1980s. The patterns in the graphics are very distinctly 1980s, and mark a shift for me from illusionistic pen-and-ink or graphite to pattern-conspicuous drawings. I wanted the book to scream "graphic" and to have a pop-culture reference to it. The writing, as per usual, is densely figured from multiple sources, not as cut-up work, but as processed text. This project was conceived in dialogue with another work, Against Fiction, even if on the surface no obvious connection exists. Just As was meant to take up observation into image-as-language, thus the "just as" aspect of the title. Just as an image can resemble so can language resemble an image, observation, phenomenon. No attempt at transparency was in play, of course, and the extent of the graphical-ness in the visual presentation is meant to emphasize that this is a long way from naturalism. The "as" is a sliding term, meant to slip you from one register to another, so that the "just" is a term of quasi-equivalence, not real equivalence, among orders of representation. But the implication is also that this book is "just as" the world is, while Against Fiction is a narrative of "as ifs" -- speculations that take their point of departure from forms of fiction, not from any presumption of relation to observed, felt, or experienced phenomena.

Production Narrative

The drawings were done on layout tissue with markers, the texts were produced on an IBM selectric in Tamia Marg's father's office at U.C. Berkeley. I can't remember if it was printed at the West Coast Print Center or not, but it was done from pasted up sheets of tissue and typed text. All the rest of the work was done in the warehouse.

Critical Analysis

Design Features

typographic: IBM selectric fonts.

imagery: Comics for sure. But the specific images had their own references, like the little guys on the cover with their beefeater hats and individual jet packs.

graphical: High contrast black and white, with a heavy emphasis on patterns of line and texture rather than on shade/shadow illusion. No illusions at all here, actually, since this is anti-naturalism.

openings: In many cases the images go across the gutter.

turnings: Scale changes and changes of venue depicted open like scenes in the turnings.

development: At the narrative level, some bit of a trajectory can be mapped, and the book ends with an image that has a long view, rather than some of the closer up images in the book.

sequence: No particular attention to sequence.

Critical Discussion

The aggressive quality of the images and layout were gratifying in their impact. The book has always seemed too big for itself, as if all that information couldn't be kept on the pages. Something about it is unresolved, as if it needed another layer or stage of digestion or refinement, but then, that has always seemed like its strength as well, that it was so raw. Looking at it now (2005), I'm still struck by recognizing the venues -- downtown Oakland, the warehouse and neighbouring buildings in the complex, 80 Langton Street, and other places. As a book it holds together mainly as pastiche, not as coherent or synthesized form.

General Comments

What else is like this? A curious combination of esoteric and accessible, vernacular and obscure. As usual with my work, especially in that period of the 1980s. The references to the popular culture sources may be there, but they've been processed through so many filters that they are radically transformed.



Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


Publication Information

publisher: Druckwerk

production: 1982 The drawings and writing were done in 1982-83.
publication: 1983

publication history: Back cover reads: "This publication is made possible with funds from LINE. Copyright 1983 Johanna Drucker" [A. Pratt]

Aesthetic Profile

other graphic novel

artists' books (LCSH)

themes: The production of memory and historical knowledge in an urban environment. [A. Pratt]

themes: Urban life and language.

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

publication tradition:
graphic novel (local)

inspiration: The work of Frances Butler, particularly her fabric designs, but also the collaboration between her and Alistair Johnston, the MappaMundi. Those drawings knocked me out. Though I didn't think I could do anything at that skill level, I still wanted to try for the graphic impact.

related works: Against Fiction.

community: other Printers and book artists in the Bay Area, as well as the poets.

note: Book resembles a large-format avant-garde comic. [A. Pratt]


Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: Druckwerk

place: Oakland, California.

production: 1982 The drawings and writing were done in 1982-83.
publication: 1983

edition size: 500 copies

note: Place of publication is not mentioned in book. [A. Schutte]


horizontal: 10 inches closed

vertical: 16 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
offset (local)

binding: other stapled

bookBlock: paper

ink (local)

other materials: staples


general description: Book is large format, in black and white with glossy paper.

format: codex (AAT)

color: no


pagination: unpaginated

numbered?: unnumbered

signed?: unsigned


This publication is made possible with funds from LINE. Copyright 1983 Johanna Drucker