The Type Bar is a moveable public art service begun in 2002 by artist Arthur Grau. Participants engage in the simple activity of writing a letter, but do so semi-publicly, out loud, and out of time, based on the Type Bar protocol.

A Type Bar ‘Speaker’ participant dictates a letter to a ‘Typist’ participant who dresses in a costume or accessory to designate their role. Using the medium of the typewriter to compose provides an anachronistic, barrier-bending environment for both people. The typewriter as tool engages participants in aural and kinesthetic sensations that immediately move The Type Bar outside of normal experience. The process of a Speaker telling their words out loud before a uniformed listener provides an impromptu act of public performance. The art of assisting, editing, and typing allows the Typist to explore their listening process and the possibilities of the empty page. With no delete, or cut-and-paste options, the Speaker and Typist are at every keystroke faced with the apparent permanence of their creation. Once written, letters are adorned with clippings, quotes, art and vintage postage stamps to complete the perception that the message transcends routine. Messages are then either mailed or hand delivered to their recipients by The Type Bar service.

The purpose of the Type Bar is to stop time and allow for participants to share messages that may not otherwise be communicated.

The Service

  • The Type Bar provides manual typewriters, vintage postage & stationery, letter enclosures & extras, and typist attire or accessories
  • Participants volunteer in either role as Speaker or Typist for the duration of at least one letter to a real recipient
  • Prompts, stage setting, or themes may be offered depending on the environment or venue
  • The Typist and Speaker craft the best message and format for the letter according to the purpose
  • Some Typists choose to read letters back to their Speakers before sealing
  • The Speaker then chooses a selection of vintage postage stamps from The Type Bar collection
  • Additional mail art, poetry, prints or clippings may be placed in, or on the envelopes when the Type Bar features guests artists
  • Participants address the envelopes and The Type Bar collects and mails or hand delivers the letters.

Book The Type Bar

Began as a free community art project in 2002, The Type Bar (formerly The Universal Babel Service) has offered hand typed letters for all kinds of people and purposes. From interactive art appearances to political rally’s to youth literacy projects, The Type Bar demonstrates the art of slow communication.

Huge thanks go out to the many collaborators have contributed to the creation process to bring The Type Bar to its current format.