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

The Current Line


Project Statement

Written as a protest, a statement of grim irony, in which the "line" of the then current administration (older Bush) was so evidently a hypocritical double speak that it seemed essential to make a piece that showed, not only stated, the contradictions of totality as simulation. I am not a "political" artist -- which is to say, I have little faith that works whose form or substance makes a direct address to the instrumental applications of power through extant administrative institutions will have any effect on changing these structures or the relations of persons of power in them. That said, I feel a distinct interest in chronicling, noting, apprehending, revealing the structures of rhetorical discourse through which these systems operate. Most effectively, they operate. And to see their operation in terms of the structures of symbolic order is an act of self-education and aesthetic challenge. I was working to understand the language of my times, as is often the case in my books, and this was one formulation of the ways in which a "line" can be produced as a reading/work.

Production Narrative

This book was made to read as a wall piece as well as in book form. Creating the large, black, block letter words and printing them with the laser printer on cotton rag paper was wonderful after years of letterpress constraints on size and shape of lettering. The soft white paper made a fine support, sensual and substantive, but also very pristine seeming. The book is very clean as a result. The letterpress was easy to do, that single simple line. This is one of the few book objects I actually printed in New Haven.

Critical Analysis

Design Features

typographic: The double text, a familiar trope, is the most obvious typographic and graphical feature of the design. The use of digital technology to produce type of any size and shape felt unbelievably liberating. But by the same token, printing that tight, clear, hard red letterpress line was also satisfying.

graphical: The dramatic contrast in scale makes the red text into a single line when the work appears on the wall. Even on the page, that contrast pushes the red line back into a graphical element as well as letting it read.

development: The shift in tone along the black text is evident.

sequence: The large black text is a single statement. Reading it to "get" the point requires skipping the red text, thus embodying contradictions of communication all too evident in the public sphere.

Critical Discussion

"All is wealth in the house of the blessed and our advantage is well taken according to the law.." So the black text begins. "Improved conditions migrate into the global marketplace in a chic climate of display to celebrate a moral triumph through a totalizing rhetoric of faith." So begins the red text. A hard, distilled, dense series of statements about the conditions in which we live. The term "line" carries many values here. In poetics, of course, the structuring principles of the line and the break are crucial to the dynamic operation of any poem. In this piece, the contrast of the large, word units and the small, tight line operate visually as well as rhetorically to reinforce the visual linearity and the social deception (being handed a "line"). "Current" refers to events, of course, as well as to the idea of energy flow.

Detailed Analysis

The opening texts sit on the page in such a way that the black block letters of the pages that follow show as a set of shadows. The red line, by contrast, sinks in deeper, reinforced by the letterpress pressure and by alignment with all the lines on the pages that follow.

General Comments

A book that served its moment, and purpose, in a modest enough manner, but with sufficient graphic strength that it still holds. Odd how little changes, too, in that public sphere, except to intensify in hypocrisy.



Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


Woodland Pattern Book Center

type: other


location: 720 East Locust Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53212

note: Woodland Pattern offered a small exhibition and reading, and this work was created for wall display. But they didn't have any role in the actual initiation of this project beyond providing that impulse.

Publication Information

publisher: Druckwerk

publication: 1996-00-00

Aesthetic Profile

artists' books (LCSH)

themes: The complete hypocrisy of public discourse, the "current line" of new speak.

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

publication tradition:
artists' book (local)
small press (local)

inspiration: News, the bible, and George Orwell.

related works: Deterring Discourse, and News.

Related Documents

manuscript type: correspondence

location: artist's archive

note: Someplace, some communication exchange with Woodland Pattern exists.

manuscript type: texts

location: artist's archive

note: Surely mockups, texts, and other dummy materials exist.

General Comments

As a work, this piece was conceived as a wall piece and a book. The large black letters fill each page and create a single text when seen all together. The little red letterpress "line" is just that, reduced to a visual linear element at a distance. Up close it reads with full irony.


Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: Druckwerk

place: New Haven, CT

publication: 1996-00-00

note: This edition contains five hardbound copies numbered 21-25. It was produced by Johanna Drucker for an exhibition at the Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The exhibition took place in January and February of 1996. Three different objects were created in the same edition. Two wall hangings of the edition, 20 commercially bound copies of the work, and 5 handbound copies of the work. [A. Schutte]


horizontal: 8.5 inches closed

vertical: 11 inches closed

depth: .25 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
letterpress (local)
digital inkjet (local)
xerographic (local)

binding: spiral (AAT) 20 of the 25 book copies

binding: hand sewn (local) 5 of the 25 book copies

binding: other 2 wall hangings

bookBlock: paper cotton rag paper
endsheets: paper cotton rag paper

ink (local)

other materials: plastic, spiral binding; clear plastic sheet for cover


general description: Modest in appearance, with soft white cotton paper, strong black type, small red letterpress.

format: codex (AAT)

cover: The cover is a commercial cover. It is a clear sheet of plastic on the front, and thick black paper on the back, spiral bound together on the left edge. There are no markings of any kind on the cover.

color: yes There are two lines of type on white paper--one line is black, the other red.


pagination: unpaginated 64 pages

numbered?: numbered

signed?: signed


This book was written and printed on the occasion of an exhibit of my work at Woodland Pattern in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in January and February of 1996. The large text was composed on a Macintosh and printed on a laser printer, then xeroxed on cotton rag paper. The small red text was handset and letterpress printed. All by the author. The edition of 25 copies (plus 2 wall copies on recycled paper designed for wall display) was bound in two versions. Twenty were commercially bound as numbers 1-20. Five were handbound by the author as numbers 21-25. All signed.