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Tim Youd: Retyping "The Group" by Mary McCarthy from April 19 – May 4, 2018

The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is pleased to announce a special performance by Los Angeles-based artist Tim Youd at Vassar College. The performance, which runs every day from April 19 through May 4, is part of the artist’s ongoing project 100 Novels in which he retypes novels from beginning to end in locations that are charged with literary significance in the author’s biography.  At Vassar, Youd will retype The Group by distinguished novelist, essayist, and critic Mary McCarthy (Vassar College, class of 1933).

Employing the same make and model typewriter used by the author, Youd types each novel on a single sheet of paper, which is backed by an additional support sheet. The artist loads the two-ply paper through the typewriter repeatedly, until the entire novel has been retyped. As the typing progresses, the top sheet becomes saturated with ink and perforated from overuse, while the sheet underneath becomes embossed from indentation. Upon completion, the two pages are separated and mounted side by side as a framed diptych, recalling two pages of an open book with the words obscured. The diptych remains as a relic of the performance that embodies the novel, even though it is completely illegible.

According to the artist, “The genesis of the project came from my recognition that on a formal level, when you are looking at two pages of a book, you are looking at two rectangles of black text inside two larger rectangles of the white pages. I had the palpable desire to crush the words of the entire book into this formal language.” It also becomes an investigation of memory, attention, and the act of reading. The artist explains, “We don’t remember every word no matter how prodigious our memory—rather, we are left with some kind of layered impression.”

During the two-week run of the performance, Youd will be relocating daily. He will be stationed in various locations across campus including the Art Center, the Main Library, The Bridge Building, Main Building, the Students’ Building, and the quad. Daily announcements of his location will be posted on social media for students and visitors to follow. Others might come across the performance by chance, following the staccato rhythm of the typewriter keys, which can often be heard before the artist comes into view. Youd is open to visitors approaching him to talk about the project throughout the performance. Performances will typically take place 10am – 5pm with a break from 1pm – 2pm. Schedule is subject to change. Please visit for updates.

This performance is the 56th novel to be typed in the series, and is one of several that Youd will undertake in the Hudson Valley during spring and summer 2018. The resulting diptychs from the Hudson Valley cycle will be presented in an exhibition in the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Cener’s Focus Gallery in fall 2018.

Youd has committed years of his life to the project and considers the act of retyping as a devotional one that requires a closer reading of the novel. In the artist’s words on the project he states, “My endeavor is not merely to copy the book, it is to experience deep engagement with the book. Most people have had the out-of-body experience that occurs during the course of an engrossing read. It is a transportation to a higher plane of consciousness, and I think may be equivalent to a religious ecstasy.” His work can be seen in a long tradition of durational endurance performances by artists such as Joseph Beuys, Marina Abramović, and Chris Burden. However, the pace of Youd’s project, which he believes will take about ten years, is much slower and methodical and has a nomadic element to it as the artist takes his show across the globe.

Art critic Christopher Knight wrote about the 100 Novels project, “Youd's clattering, obsolete typewriter, carefully matched to the one the original author used, stands in sharp contrast to the gentle keyboard of a computer, tablet or digital phone. He's texting, but not in the usual way. . . . [His work] exploits the limits of focused concentration. Always a challenge, the scramble these days is to keep afloat in the interactive environment of virtual and analog realities.”

The Group was McCarthy’s fifth novel in which she follows the lives of eight fictional Vassar women after they graduate in 1933. Published on August 28, 1963, with a first printing of 75,000, The Group was a sensation. By September 8 it was No. 9 on the New York Times best-seller list for adult fiction, with booksellers ordering 5,000 copies a day. McCarthy’s characters struggle with numerous women’s issues of the time including sexism in the workplace, child-rearing, financial difficulties, family crises, and sexual relationships. As highly educated women from affluent backgrounds, they strive for autonomy and independence in a time when a woman's role is still largely restricted to domesticity. Over the course of the book, the reader learns about the women's views on contraception, love, sex, socialism, and psychoanalysis. In an essay McCarthy wrote in 1951 for Holiday magazine, she stated, “For different people … at different periods, Vassar can stand for whatever is felt to be wrong with the modern female: humanism, atheism, Communism, short skirts, cigarettes, psychiatry, votes for women, free love, intellectualism. Pre-eminently among American college women, the Vassar girl is thought of as carrying a banner.” 

To date, Youd (b. 1967, Worcester, MA) has retyped over 50 novels at various locations in the United States and Europe. His work is the subject of a current exhibition and performance cycle at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Youd has been in residence at various historic writer’s homes, including William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak with the University of Mississippi Art Museum (Oxford, MS), Flannery O’Connor’s Andalusia with SCAD (Milledgeville and Savannah, GA), and Virginia Woolf’s Monk’s House (Rodmell, Sussex). His work has appeared in numerous museum exhibitions, including the New Orleans Museum of Art, Monterey Museum of Art, Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, University of Mississippi Art Museum at Rowan Oak, Hanes Gallery at Wake Forest, and the Lancaster Museum of Art and History. He has presented and performed his 100 Novels project at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), LAXART, and the Museo dell’Ara Pacis in Rome, and has retyped Joe Orton’s Collected Plays at The Queen’s Theatre with MOCA London. He lives and works in Los Angeles.

Related events:

Tim Youd 100 Novels Hudson Valley Cycle
Performances April – July 2018

DATES: April 19 – May 10 (days off on April 28 and May 5)
NOVEL: The Group by Mary McCarthy
LOCATIONS: Vassar College, Poughkeepsie
NOTE: Late Night at the Lehman Loeb performances on April 19 and April 26 from 5 – 9pm

DATES: June 4 – June 13
NOVEL: The Falconer by John Cheever
LOCATIONS: Sing Sing Correctional Facility decommissioned guard tower near prison gate, Ossining, 197 Cedar Lane, John Cheever’s home, Ossining

DATES: June 15 – June 23
NOVEL: Jack by A.M. Homes
LOCATION: Campus of Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville

DATES: June 25 – June 30
NOVEL: The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
LOCATION: Carson McCullers House, Nyack

DATES: July 2 – July 13
NOVEL: Light Years by James Salter
LOCATION: Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Catskill

DATES: July 15 – 17
SCREENPLAY: Ironweed by William Kennedy
LOCATIONS: Streets and cafés in Hudson

DATES: July 18 – 22
NOVEL: Ironweed by William Kennedy, first half
LOCATIONS: at the Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany

DATES: July 23 – 26
NOVEL: Ironweed by William Kennedy, second half
LOCATIONS: Art Omi Fields Sculpture Park, Ghent

About the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building's primary donor, opened in 1993. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with an art museum as a part of its original plans, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar's extensive collections. The Art Center's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 21,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares.  Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college's inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th-century painters. 

Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free and all galleries are wheelchair accessible.  The Art Center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00am–5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am–9:00pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00pm.  Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion.  For additional information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit

Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage.

Directions to the Vassar campus, located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, are available here.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Wednesday, April 18, 2018