MARIANNE HOLM HANSEN: Kinko’s in New York used to have typewriters in ’94. I remember writing a CV on my neighbour’s typewriter. Even then I was aware of how physical it was. You see what you do.
My little one is small enough to travel with, to take my typewriter like a laptop. Sound becomes an issue. To type on different sites. It’d be quite nice – people talk loudly on mobiles and I make a different sound. Type twitter. This person tweetering throughout a conference. Be cool to take a typewriter instead and circulate what you wrote by hand. It’d be like early photographers lugging all the equipment around and how different that made the process…
Type is a nice word. Typing. A type as in the font a type a characteristic. It’s not writing it’s typing. I think if someone said they were typing I would think of a typewriter.
Now we write in different ways so using the typewriter it becomes something else. We pick it up because of a particular reason. My reason is it’s a very physical way of working, of constructing writing or words. I only make words or very short sentences.
It made a lot of sense in response to the lists [ of Marianne’s For the Record project, the source of the words shown here ] to type each word. I’m interested in how things change over time. Putting them in alphabetical order you lost that.
Each came from a particular situation, so I thought of returning the words to space, individually spacing them out again, asking the question: could you re-imagine the situation from which these words have arisen? I don’t think that worked. It becomes contrived.
Something else came out of one word on a page. It becomes something else. It’s the undo function. There’s no undo. If you do it on the typewriter the trace will always be there of what you did before. If you change your mind you have to start again. On a computer you don’t. On a computer you think more about layout and font beforehand. On a typewriter you have to type it out.
I played around with spacing, put in hyphens: hopeless i made hope-less. It gives you time, being limited in what you can write – the font is set. So I play with the spacing of the words, where it sits on the page. It makes you think about the word itself and the meaning and potential meanings of the word.
There’s a weird economy in it. There’s something about…. I feel like I can allow myself to put one word on the page. On a computer that is wasteful. Why is that? I wonder if working on the typewriter can be considered as closer to drawing than it is to writing.
In drawing if you work things out a mark here a mark there deal with a particular form it kind of materialises very directly as you go ahead. If you erase it leaves a trace. Whatever you do is left on the page even if you try to erase it. Typewriting leaves the mistake.
The mistake is in there in some way which opens up a whole new possibility for thinking about language. If I use it for a written document or use the typewriter font on my computer when making a document, it’s an entirely different thing…. a different conscious process…
It’s embodied…. a material thing to type that the computer doesn’t do in the same way. A physical act. Have you seen Jack Nicholson in The Shining? He types: all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…
This conversation between VerySmallKitchen and Marianne Holm Hansen took place in Bethnal Green, London on Feb 22nd 2012. More about Marianne’s work is here.