Artist to 'retype' Cather's 'O Pioneers!' beginning April 1

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Artist to ‘retype’ Cather’s ‘O Pioneers!’ beginning April 1

Image credit  Tim Youd retyping Mary McCarthy’s The Group; 487 pages typed on a Remington No. 3; Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, April – May 2018. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for The New York Times.
Mariana Vincenti | The New York Times.
Tim Youd retyping Mary McCarthy’s "The Group" at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York..

Tim Youd is bringing his 100 Novels Project to Nebraska in April and May.

Youd, a performance and visual artist, will retype three novels by American author and University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumna Willa Cather. Those novels — "O Pioneers!" "The Song of the Lark" and "My Ántonia" — rank as some of the foremost literary landmarks of the American Great Plains. Youd’s performances are in partnership with the Joslyn Art Museum, National Willa Cather Center, and Willa Cather Archive at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Youd, who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, also works in painting, sculpture and video. To date, he has retyped 71 novels at various locations in the United States and Europe.

Youd’s first performance is scheduled from April 1-8 at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where he will type "O Pioneers!" at the site of [a famous photo of Cather]( taken during her time as a student at the University of Nebraska in 1893. He will perform each day from about 10 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. outside of Architecture Hall. In case of inclement weather, Youd will move his table and typewriter to the Adele Hall Learning Commons. His performance is hosted by the Willa Cather Archive.

The novel will be retyped on the same model of typewriter used by Cather. When retyping, Youd types all of a novel’s words onto one page (which is backed by a second sheet) by running it repeatedly through the typewriter. The words become illegible, and the accumulated text becomes a rectangle of black ink inside the larger rectangle of the white page. Upon completion, Youd separates the two highly distressed pages and mounts them side-by-side in diptych form. The performance relic thus becomes a formal drawing, a representation of two pages of a book. The novel is present in its entirety, yet the words are completely obscured.

Youd’s visit to the university will include programming in collaboration with the School of Art, Art History and Design, the Department of English and University Libraries. A formal presentation is planned for 5:30 p.m. April 5 in Richards Hall, Room 15.

From April 10-28, Youd will be at the National Willa Cather Center in Red Cloud, Nebraska, retyping "The Song of the Lark." From May 1-10, Youd will retype "My Ántonia" in Omaha, in partnership with Joslyn Art Museum.

Youd’s other performance residencies at historic writer’s homes have included William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak with the University of Mississippi Art Museum, Flannery O’Connor’s Andalusia with SCAD Museum of Art, and Virginia Woolf’s Monk’s House. His work has been the subject of numerous museum exhibitions at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, Hanes Art Gallery at Wake Forest University and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

He has presented and performed his 100 Novels project at the Ackland Art Museum, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Art Omi, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions and LAXART, and retyped Joe Orton’s Collected Plays at the Queen’s Theatre with the Museum of Contemporary Art London. His studio is based in Los Angeles.

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