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



Project Statement

This book was inspired by the study of film history and theory. Written while I was a graduate student at UC Berkeley, the text compiles notes from classes and conversations into a single stream. The work is a report on what I was learning, formulating, understanding within the critical frameworks of film studies, but it is also saturated with observations of current events. These punctuate the longer stream, and the division of texts on the pages maintains a distinction between the themes of the running heads, paragraphs, and footers. Unedited and thus unshaped, the work was part of a larger engagement with procedural composition that I had been involved with for some time. The difference was that this work was prompted by an interest in using the education I was getting in the subject of film as material, as well as paying attention to the phenomenon of fame and cultural spectacle.

Production Narrative

The original manuscript was composed procedurally. A single line was written throughout the notebook from the top of one page to another. That fixed the sequence of pages, and made it necessary to retain all the pages in their sequence if that line was to read properly. The different stories in the book were intercut, but they were not written either sequentially or simultaneously. First the stories began, and then they would be broken off and continued at a random place, further into the notebook. The next story would proceed the same way. Little by little, the notebook was full of segments of text with blanks in between. These were gradually filled in with another, final story. The texts at the botom of the pages were from notes taken in lecture and class, and would simply stream along at their own pace, sometimes outstripping the narratives, and sometimes lagging behind. Typesetting the text to create a mockup of pages that could be copied and printed required some attention to the spacing and leading, as well as font size, style, and other distinctions, so that the interwoven lines of text and theme could be kept distinct. The typesetting was done on a dot matrix printer, from Unix files, but as a last and only resort for creating some kind of typographic version of the manuscript. It was too long to set in letterpress, and I no longer had access to phototypesetting equipment.

Critical Analysis

Design Features

typographic: Singularly ugly, very much the product of that brief period in time when dot matrix printers were used in computer labs as a way to produce output.

imagery: None

graphical: The layout struggles to keep distinctions among strains of text clear, but the overall greyness of the pages, and density of text on them, unbroken and unrelieved, makes the format resistant to reading.

development: Just the story.

Critical Discussion

This book isn't so much an artist's book as it is a transcription from a draft manuscript to a printed, reproducable manuscript form. The work is a mockup for what might have been a printed book, rather than a real edition. The texts are interesting, but too densely packed to unpack, as often happens with my work.



Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


Publication Information

publisher: Druckwerk

publication: 1984-00-00

publication history: To say this book was "published" is an overstatement. A handful of these copies were made, about 10, to distribute the text among friends and colleagues I thought might find it interesting. The book is a second state of the manuscript, rather than an actual book publication.

Aesthetic Profile

artists' books (LCSH)

themes: Film theory, production, history, and the general strangeness of human creativity as evidenced on the description of the proposed remaking of Ben Hur in real and fantasy accounts.

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

publication tradition:
artists' book (local)

inspiration: The inspirations for this book came directly from film studies at Berkeley where I was listening to Bertrand Augst's lectures and discussions of film, the materiality of the signifier, and descriptions of or responses to works of the most interesting and inspiring experimental cinema or pioneering silent era. The tales of Bunel and Eisenstein in Mexico, and of the making of Ben Hur, and other particulars and fantasies, all blended in the main texts, which also drew on themes of film theory and criticism.

other influences: Without wanting to sound pretentious, the work of Jean Luc Godard, Luis Bunuel, and Jean Marie Straub with Danielle Huillet were all influences on my thinking about form and composition. Godard for the intercutting of fiction and theory and observation, Bunuel for the fantasmatic, and Straub/Huillet for rigorous insistence on procedural technique and material authenticity.

community: other Bertrand Augst, the film studies community, and the poets in the Bay Area were all part of the audience I was aiming to engage.

Related Documents

manuscript type: texts

location: artist's archive

note: The original manuscript notebook.

manuscript type: mockups

location: artist's archive

note: The pasted up pages from which the xeroxes were editioned.


Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: Druckwerk

place: Oakland, California

publication: 1984-00-00

edition size: 10


horizontal: 8.5 inches closed

vertical: 5.5 inches closed

depth: .5 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
xerographic (local)

binding: velobind (local)

bookBlock: paper

ink (local)


format: codex (AAT)

cover: The cover is made from plain pink paper. On the paper, the title, Spectacle, has been hand written in dark gray scribbly letters, and is surrounded by a confetti of small dots and dashes in the same hand.

color: no


pagination: unpaginated 172 pages

numbered?: numbered

signed?: signed