1978 notes on amplified typing

Notes on performance with amplified typing

Franklin Furnace October 1978


Props: one typewriter amplified with microphone, speaker outside installed on top of front door—amplification of typing turned to high.


The plan was to spend the first part of the month sitting in front of the typewriter transcribing in real time all activity that took place around me in the space. The typewriter was amplified crudely with a microphone placed close to the strikers and the mechanical sound was amplified and broadcast outside on the street through a speaker precariously placed above the front door.  The amplification was turned up full volume. The sound of typing breaching the confines of the interior space could be heard to the end of the block; a deep base reverberation that caused the windows in the front to ‘hum’.


What I had not understood before hand was that for most of the day I would sit in the space in anticipation of someone to enter through the front door. And then more often than not they would simply walk by and leave. Less than reassuring the thunder outside of my typing left me with the uncomfortable sensation of exposure which grew over time.  By the end of my pre-designated two weeks I was spending ‘lunch time’ in the bar down the street anesthetizing my will so that I could continue through the afternoon. I did fulfill my commitment.


In retrospect it was the unanticipated awkwardness of my encounter with public exposure (the amplified sound echoing down the street) and the vulnerability I was faced with that led to the next two years of performative exploration in the New York City subway system. All of the pursuing work took place during the heart of rush hour and confronted a split between the individuated spirit of autonomous free will and the seductive pull to conform and fold into the mass of undifferentiated form.



Ann Messner     2009