Epic table for an epic task: Retyping ‘Grapes of Wrath’ at USC


A typing table on display inside the USC Fisher Museum of Art takes the idea of the traditional typing table -- small and square -- and transforms it into something surprisingly circular.

Knowhow Shop designers Kagan Taylor and Justin Rice built the communal table -- composed of 10 interlocking smaller tables -- for the installation “In Everything There Is the Trace” by Los Angeles artist Susan Silton.

Over the next three months, Silton and volunteers will type different portions of John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” at the circular table.


“Susan came to us because she liked the labor inherent in our furniture,” Taylor said. “She was interested in how we could express labor in the furniture that we designed for her.”

Taylor and Rice, whose Knowhow Shop is in Highland Park, built the tables so that each has only three legs and relies on its neighbor for firm standing. Each unit is separate but only functions as part of a larger piece, interlocking together on overlapping corners. Even the grain of the Douglas fir veneers line up from table to table.

“They are all interchangeable,” Taylor said of the individual pieces, “but there is only one way the veneers align.”

Taylor said Silton had functional requirements. The tables needed to accommodate 10 vintage typewriters, and they had to have ample room for a bookstand and ream of paper.

What will happen to the design after the show closes? Taylor hopes it will end up in another museum or collection.

“We rendered the tables unmarketable,” he said, laughing. “You would need to buy all 10 of them.”


The public is invited to join Silton in a collective retyping of Steinbeck’s novel by signing up online. Participants in the performance piece will receive a certificate of participation typed and signed by the artist as well as recognition on the typed manuscript.

“Drawn to Language,” the show featuring Silton’s installation as well as the work of four other artists, runs through Dec. 7 at USC’s Fisher Museum of Art, 823 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles. Admission is free. Information: (213) 740-4561.


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