Tim Youd Types in Novel Way
Many avid readers long to become completely absorbed in a novel, but artist and Hancock Park resident Tim Youd has taken that pursuit and raised it to an art form.
As part of his 100 Novels Project, Youd is almost half through his odyssey of re-typing 100 novels on the make and model of typewriter upon which they were originally written and in the locations where the authors or stories are closely associated.
Most recently, Youd has spent late nights in the last weeks of June re-typing City of Night, a classic of gay literature by John Rechy in the Hollywood Boulevard storefront window of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE). The sound of his typing has been amplified out into the street.
Starting in July, Youd will re-type Rechy’s Numbers at the Fern Dell entrance of Griffith Park.
Youd’s usual process is to set up a table in a public place, run two pieces of paper through the typewriter and re-type each page of the selected novel. When he hits the end of the paper in the typewriter, he pulls the two pieces out, rolls them back into the starting position, and continues typing over what he just typed.
By the time he finishes the novel, the top sheet is covered with ink—and sometimes torn—while the second backing sheet reveals the indentations and wear and tear of the experience. The two papers are then hung together as a diptych that serves as a relic of the performance.
“The diptych becomes a visual representation of a book,” said Youd. “It’s a rectangle inside of a rectangle on each page and that’s what you’re looking at when you look at a book on a formal level.”
Youd, 49, also creates a sculpture of the typewriter used in each performance and has produced related paintings.
However, it’s the act of re-typing that is central to Youd.
“The performance is at the heart of it,” said Youd “and the performance is really about this devotional effort to be a good reader…to be fully engaged, fully present.”
Youd explained that he has read every book he has re-typed at least once before. Through his performance, his goal is to connect to the book on a deeper level.
“It’s almost an out of body experience, he said. “It’s akin to religious ecstasy.”
Among over 40 previous novels, Youd has re-typed John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces in the French Quarter of New Orleans and Virgina Woolf’s Orlando in the author’s cottage in Sussex, England.
The selection of novels is first determined by whether it was written on a typewriter. This restriction means that most novels are from the 20th century up to the mid-1980s when personal computers became more commonplace.
Beyond that, Youd follows his own interests or accepts invitations to perform from institutions around the world. Recently, he was invited to re-type an Eileen Chang novel in Taiwan next spring.
Closer to home, in the midst of his City of Night dates, Youd said the Hollywood Boulevard location had proven to be a lively choice.
“It’s turning out to be one of my most enjoyable performances,” said Youd. “I’ve had so much positive interaction with the club-going crowd.”
The two diptychs resulting from the Rechy novels will be installed in the front gallery at LACE and exhibited along with an oversized typewriter sculpture and a related painting through August 14th.
Tim Youd re-types City of Night, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, 6522 Hollywood Blvd., 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. through July 1. Tim Youd re-types Numbers, at the Fern Dell Drive entrance of Griffith Park, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 6th to July 15th, (323) 957-1777, welcometolace.org
Posted June 29, 2016 at 6:00 a.m.