Tonight, Spanish multimedia artist Diego Romero will bring his interactive exhibit “The Typing Machine” to El Barrio’s Artspace PS109 in Harlem. The showcase marks the eleventh incarnation of this ongoing series, in which visitors can write and share messages using a vintage typewriter. “Spectators can participate by typing a message, which we then scan, frame, and hang on the wall,” says Romero of the confessional project. “The participant also keeps a carbon paper copy of the message.” Within the exhibition space, the messages are placed onto the walls in real time and colored thread is used to connect certain words that are repeated, and Romero also catalogs messages from past shows online.
Both as a participant and a viewer, the project’s open-ended nature – the instructions simply say to “type your message” – is illuminating. And as the mastermind behind it all, Romero says witnessing the innumerable ways that people choose to communicate and represent themselves never fails to fascinate. “When I started, I didn’t realize it was going to be a three-year journey,” he says.
But after three years, he adds, the first response he received is still the one that sticks out the most. “It was a very enigmatic message,” he recalls. “It said, ‘My dear children, when you will get this message, a year will have passed and we will be here, in the heart of the world. Love, dad.’”
Adding to the mystique of the project is how uncommon typewriters have become; in fact, Romero has occasionally had to provide tutorials on how to use the outmoded tools. Still, he says, there’s nothing like the tactile experience of a using mechanical keyboard. “I noticed how fascinating that machine was to my 9-year-old my nephews,” he says. “And I wondered if that fascination would become extended. It turned out that is it, and people are excited to participate.”
Visit El Barrio’s Artspace PS109 at 215 E. 99th Street, New York, NY, 10029 from November 15 – 26. The opening reception starts at 6pm on November 15.