Remediating the Avant-Garde

Johanna Drucker, "Radical Remediation"

Friday, October 25, 5-6:30 McCormick 101


Bibliography has always been concerned with texts—their recovery, authority, integrity—and with tasks of reading across material evidence. Recognizing the ways every instantiation is a translation and/or transformation is at the core of the field. Bibliographers have been keenly attentive to the role of graphical elements—fonts, paper, images—but less articulate about the visual attributes of the facsimile, which pass as “natural” as long as our visual processing is in historical synch with their codes. In digital environments material remediation creates trade-offs through the use of visual, verbal, data, and metadata surrogates.

This talk is posed in terms of the cultural aspirations and political goals of the avant-garde, and the paradoxes of historical as well as technical processes in shifting the context of reception. The term "radical" is meant to create some resonance between the strategic positions imagined by early avant-garde artists in their interventions in the symbolic order, the "revolution in language" that was central to their poetic and aesthetic work, and the extreme transformation at the material and social level enacted by absorption into digital repositories and networks. How do we “de-familiarize” the digital representation of avant-garde materials and what are the bibliographical challenges of dealing with the remediation of these highly specific artifacts?

Johanna Drucker

Johanna Drucker is the inaugural Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA. She is internationally known for her work in the history of graphic design, typography, experimental poetry, fine art, and digital humanities. In addition, she has a reputation as a book artist, and her limited edition works are in special collections and libraries worldwide.

Her most recent titles include SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Speculative Computing (Chicago, 2009), and Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide (Pearson, 2008, 2nd edition late 2012). She is currently working on a database memoire, ALL, the online Museum of Writing in collaboration with University College London and King's College, and a letterpress project titled Stochastic Poetics. A collaboratively written work, Digital_Humanities, with Jeffrey Schnapp, Todd Presner, Peter Lunenfeld, and Anne Burdick is forthcoming from MIT Press.