Toronto specializing in contemporary photography

Writing Machines Archive

Writing Machines Archive

Artist Statement

The sites and subjects that I explore consider the temporal uncertainty that photographs evoke in relation to memory, technology, language and experience.

In 1997, I dismantled a manual typewriter. The physical contact with the object was used as a procedure for remembering an obsolete technology that has influenced and predated my experience. The cultural complexity of the apparatus, its design, function, and mechanical precision were conveyed through this process of disassembly. The labour that fabricated and implemented the writing machine was also revealed. Since that time, I have been reassembling the artifacts of this experience as digital images. The mechanical artifacts are texts and stories that may be transcribed and retold. This project is an exploration of organic and inorganic memory through the borders and interface that continue to define the human experience with machines.

In 2004, I traveled to the Peter Mitterhofer Typewriter Museum in Partschins, Italy. The museum is located in the home of Peter Mitterhofer, the inventor of an early writing machine, and houses one of the largest collections of typewriting machines in the world. During my stay, I researched and photographed the museum’s collection. The resulting photographs form an archive of machines that anticipate the contemporary apparatus of Information technology. They evoke both an inscription of the past as well an encryption of what is yet-to-come.

In this photographic work, the effects of memory and forgetting are encountered through an experience of obsolescence and déjà vu. Although the indexical foundation of the photograph continues to be decisive for the reception and interpretation of images in contemporary culture, the movement from photographic objects to digital media has instigated critical questions concerning the phenomenology of the image, embodied experience, and systems of memory. Within a contemporary framework, the deliberations on memory and forgetting in the discourse of photography are also receptive to considerations of paramnesia, otherwise known as déjà vu. As an affect of human experience and temporality, déjà vu is a distortion of memory. Neither remembrance nor forgetting, the effect of déjà vu has a significant relation to modern technology and media.

The writing machines had a profound effect on the organization of institutions, labour and the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge. They were instrumental in redefining experience as pattern and information. Concurrently, the bureaucracies that utilized writing machines and reproductive technologies during the twentieth century enhanced the systemic efficiency of surveillance, accountability and archiving that have subsequently abridged many areas of human experience. The computer expands and supplements the legacy of this technology.

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Robert Bean: Striking Type, at ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst Medialounge in Karlsruhe, Germany, 2015.


ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst Medialounge, Karlsruhe, Germany