‘Channeling’ the Author: Typewriter Performance Art exhibit opens at MCASD

From MCASD Reports

Tim Youd has undertaken the task of retyping 100 classic novels over the course of five years, using the same make and model typewriter as the author did. He stages his durational performances at locations integral to the plot of the novel or pertinent to the author’s life — places they lived or held jobs.

“Tim Youd: The Long Goodbye” chronicles his “mission,” and is on exhibit at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) in La Jolla through Aug. 31. During the month of July, Youd will retype Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye” at MCASD, in the Krichman Gallery overlooking the ocean.

Through his pilgrimages to these “charged” sites, where he sits typing on an antiquated machine, Youd courts the mythologies that attend famed literary figures. At the same time, his performances stand as mechanical demonstrations of endurance-word after word, hour after hour.

In recent months, the artist has retyped each of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe crime novels, leading up to “The Long Goodbye,” the sixth in the seven-volume series. The acclaimed detective fiction writer moved to La Jolla in 1946 with his wife, Cissy, settling down the street from MCASD on Camino de la Costa. There, Chandler wrote “The Long Goodbye,” as well as “Playback,” which is set in a fictionalized La Jolla that he called “Esmerelda.”

This exhibition features new works by Youd related to these novels, as well as selected pieces from the first year of his larger “100 Novels” series.

Steps in his process


Youd types relentlessly on a single sheet of paper backed with an additional sheet. As he runs the doubled page through the carriage again and again, a dark monochrome emerges and the novel is rendered illegible.


Upon completion, the two sheets are mounted as a diptych, a positive and negative image suggesting two pages of an open book.


Youd memorializes the typewriter on which each novel was written, creating a sculptural “portrait” of the machine. Made of layered cardboard that is carved away and painted, it stands as a surrogate for the writer him or herself.

Youd has made a typewriter portrait for each of the seven Philip Marlow novels, as well as an eighth for the unfinished novel Chandler was working on at the time of his death in 1959. Perhaps these commemorative sculptures, along with Youd’s performances, offer a kind of long goodbye to Chandler himself. u

If you go:

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. (Closed Wednesdays.) Admission: $10; seniors and students, $5. Free, 5-7 p.m. third Thursdays. 700 Prospect St., La Jolla. (858) 454-3541.