Friday, July 3, 2009

Royal Road Test ?

As mentioned in a few earlier posts, I'm currently sifting through a large number of old negatives of photos taken over a 25 year period, before I switched to digital, and getting them scanned to image files little by little. This project may take a few years because there are alot of them ! Hopefully I'll live that long ! :-D
.
But I keep finding surprises, photos that I'd forgotten about, many of which have a story of some sort associated with them. The story on this one is nothing to write home about, but when I found this old typewriter cast off in a vacant lot where an old house had been bulldozered, it immediately reminded me of a book I'd come across many years previously. And I'm wondering whether any of you might have come across the same book at any point in your travels through life . . . the book was called "Royal Road Test", by a certain photographer named Ed Ruscha, who did it back around 1967. To cut to the chase, Ruscha and some friends drove at 90 miles an hour down a desert road in California, and threw an old Royal typewriter out of the car, while photographing the event. Many photos of the wrecked typewriter, and parts of it strewn across the desert around the impact site, were taken and published in the book. Does that ring a bell ? ( Like the return carriage bell that some old typewriters had ?) Have you ever heard of, or actually seen this book ? Looking at the internet yesterday after finding this photo in the latest batch back from the lab, I saw that copies of it sell for a few thousand dollars today. Sure wish I'd bought one cheap years ago . . . Sounds sort of fun . . . there are other objects I'd like to road test in that manner . . .
.




















.

31 comments:

Cynthia said...

I love the idea of the typewriter crash series. I imagine that was what happened to me on the desert highway...your picture wouldn't download. I will have to check later. You have such an accessible writing style, friendly and clever, Owen. Come over to (OWL) blog and read some of my poetry. I like "icing on the blogcake", too. <3

Steve said...

That typewriter picture sums up the creative writing process for me... I frequently want to chuck my computer out into the middle of the desert...

Selina Kingston said...

So I've taken up your offer and I've pitched up in my ballgown....and I like what I see!! Really pleased to see you on my blog - thank you for following.
I'll be back in the future for sure to make cool balm of after sun lotion comments !!
Selina x

the watercats said...

They must have been ahead of their time... who has a type writer any more?? I wasn't aware of the book, but it sounds like fun.. it's mad how things suddenly become valuable!.. if only there was a time machine... :-D
Love the photo, there's something very surreal about it.. I love the fact everything looks so bleached out... coo'ell!

Bill Evertson said...

"It was too directly bound to its own anguish to be anything other than a cry of negation; carrying within itself the seeds of its own destruction." Alas I don't have the book either but some of the documentation was reprinted in Lucy Lippard's "Six Years" ('73), a wonderful distillation of conceptual art between '66 and '72.

louciao said...

A black and white illustration of a writer's inspiration having dried up--his fertile imagination having become a barren, rocky terrain. Other than that, quite cheery in its insouciance!

Jenny said...

This typewriter reminds me of how I used to be anti-computer for about 12 years ago. :) I kept using Tipp-Ex and throwing away sheet after sheet. Then I told myself to admit my defeat.

Now I wonder how could I ever have managed without Words?

Cool pic and I like your reflections here as well. There is a certain melancholic feeling to this wrecked typewriter, even though it is a machine.

Patricia said...

Hi,
Ed Rusha is one of California's most important artists. He has been working for more than forty years. His works often involve themselves with graphic depiction of words, and iconic American structures.
The Royal Road test was published in 1967, but you probably know that.

@eloh said...

Reminds me of the movie "Office Space".

Ande said...

I think I saw some piece of art when they did the same with a laptop. It looked quite plastic. I think the typewriter seems to have a more pleasant personality.

Margaret Pangert said...

Wasn't that called happening art? which turned into performances sometimes? totally unrehearsed, unscripted happenings. I own--and occasionally use--an IBM Selectric which actually has some memory. a precursor to the word processor. i think it's anmazng you came acrss ths photo and remembered the story!

AlpHa Buttonpusher said...

Perfect!

Catherine said...

never herd of this book or project...but is Ed R also a landscape artist...think I have seen some of his exhibitions,,,love the phoyo of the abandoned typewriter...

Faye Pekas said...

Owen, thanks for visiting my place and suggesting I check out your Dream House posts. I just did that. You have some great shots here! So many of your old houses remind me of some of mine. I would love to follow you around with my camera for awhile :)

robert said...

Had to learn to write with ten fingers in school and was told that my fingers would have to 'think' about where the letters were. We had to write upon such typewriters actually and it was always bad to make a mistake, as the teacher could find it ... nothing like a 'delete button'.
Who knows what that typewriter has written in his life, telling it now to the desert. Glad to have you 'here' telling such stories.
Please have a nice weekend.

Lydia said...

I guess you aren't kidding about the book! Nope, never heard of it but the idea delights me. The going price, however, does not.

In the autumn around here they have pumpkin throwing contests where the pumpkins are put in devices that catapult them into the air. Perhaps some photos are in order!

clo said...

un petit coucou du pays des cigales qui elles non plus ne parlent pas très bien l'anglais...je suppose qu'il faudrait lire le texte qui va avec ta photo du jour...mais la il fait vraiment un peu trop chaud..le cerveau marche au ralenti..
je sais c'est faignants les méditerranéens ...
tes photos du post précédent sont superbes..j'aime beaucoup ce noir et blanc..
il va très bien avec la beauté de ces vieilles pierres..
un petit café Owen? :)
amitiés..bon weekend...

Owen said...

Ahh Clo, il va falloir travailler cet anglais juste un peu, non? ;-D Je sais que c'est dur à partir d'une certaine age, mais bon, ce n'est jamais trop tard non plus, n'est-ce pas? Et je ne veux pas dire que tu es d'une certaine age non plus, mais autour de 30 ans c'est encore tout à fais envisageable... (comme Sacha Guitry disait, les dix meilleures années dans la vie d'une femme c'est entre 30 et 31 :-) Bref, cette histoire de machine à écrire, en gros, il y avait un artiste, Ed Ruscha qui a fait un livre sur une expérience faite dans le désert californien où il a jeté une vieille machine à écrire marque Royal par la fenêtre d'une voiture qui roulait à 150 km/heure, et puis il a photographié les dégats pour son livre... en tombant sur cette photo de machine à écrire en loques, cela m'a rappelé ce livre que j'avais vu il y a des années aux US. Et je me bottais le mm-mm de ne pas avoir acheté une copie à l'époque, car aujourd'hui ce livre vaut 3000 USD... Voilà... dans un monde idéal, je taperais en anglais et français ces petites contes de fée photo... mais déjà j'ai du mal à trouver des moments perdus pour blogger... mais bon, pour des lecteurs, ou des lectrices surtout charmantes comme toi, n'hésites pas à poser la question si les grandes lignes du sujet du jour ne sont pas assez claires... et ce serait avec plaisir pour un petit café !!! Ah oui, un café avec Clo... au fait, est-ce que la Grenouille pourrait venir aussi ??? ;-D

Hi Lydia ! Non, definitely not kidding about the book, just type Royal Road Test on Google, you can find excerpts from it, even a photo or two on the net. Gosh I wish I'd bought one. Used to spend alot of time nosing about in used book stores in the US... I remember clearly leafing through a copy of this and thinking what a wonderful project it was... And yes, most certainly would love to see the pumpkin hurling someday...

Robert, yeah, we had to learn how to type in high school too, on IBM typewriters, sure glad I did too, because I got pretty fast on the keyboard, and now can type right away into the wee hours of the morning with little finger stress... yes, it would be wonderful if objects like this could tell their stories... Who knows what may have comme out of this old machine... maybe Philippe Djian used it to type "Bleu Comme l'Enfer"... ???

Hey Faye, thanks for dropping in, after seeing your wonderful Turkey Barn, thought you might like some of those Dream Houses here... you're welcome to tag along any time... if you happen to be in France... Sure wish I could get out full time to hunt these things down, because I know they are out there, I can hear them whispering when the breeze blows...

Owen said...

Hi Catherine, not sure if he did landscape work or not, the little I've found about him suggests alot of off the wall photo projects, a series of parking lot photos from the air around Los Angeles, a series on motels... etc... souds like a fun guy... :-)

Hi Alpha, glad you enjoyed it... !

Hey Margaret, wow, you still actually have a working typewriter ? Amazing... As for remembering the story, gosh, there's no telling what sticks in one's mind, until it re-surfaces suddenly and unexpectedly... that's the joy of having lived a little while, one never knows what one may find oneself remembering... but nothing like going through old photos to bring all sorts of memories crashing back into consciousness...

Ande, well, I guess all sorts of things have been tossed from cars... to become roadside attractions...

@eloh, haven't seen "Office Space" yet, will have to keep an eye out for it... thanks for the tip !

cieldequimper said...

Oh typewriters... I sometimes wish we still had them en lieu et place of e-mails. They seem so poetic now. Yes, Bretagne, yes, bientôt !

jeff said...

Salut cher Owen !

Alors il suffit que tu fouilles dans tes vieux négatifs pour nous faire partager de vieilles photos que tu réactualises avec ton nouvel appareil ! Je pense que tu vas bien l'amortir cet appareil en question car je me doute que tu dois avoir des cartons entiers de pellicules B/W ou N/B !
Cette machine à écrire posée à même le sol, évoque pour moi bien des choses ! Je suis un peu comme Clo, avec la chaleur, je suis légèrement au ralenti, mais cela ne m'empêche pas de voyager avec ta photo !
Quel symbôle cette machine à écrire alors qu'en ce moment même mon clavier n'imprime pas avec un rouleau d'encre mais avec une mémoire vive et quelques pixels !
Et oui ! Tu as fait ton temps "brave" machine à écrire ! Ta place est dans les musées ma cocotte, ou dans les brocantes ou posée dans un coin de la maison pour faire déco !
Jaime ton noir et blanc car à chaque fois, tu nous amène à l'essentiel ! Vas-y, continue avec ton appareil à retraduire les anciennes pellicules en pixels...! Tu as plein de choses à nous montrer encore Owen ! j'en suis presque sûr et certain !

Ciao amigOwen !... et merci pour ton clin d'@eil auquel je répondrais... après l'apéro pris sur ma terrasse marocaine !... ou bien après la tisane de ce soir, au clair de lune, bouffé par les moustiques et les moucherons ! ! !

Amitiés et encore merci Owen !
Ciao ( 2ème fois ! )...;)

Owen said...

Hi Patricia, thanks, other than knowing it was done back in 1967, that's about all I know... enjoyed your post about gunpowder art ! Cool !

Jenny, yeah, there is something a little melancholy about objects like this abandoned in vacant lots... kicked out, no longer wanted... but I love thinking about the stories they tell, the lives they led. Change is hard, I recall the first time in my parents' house they got their first computer, it lived alongside the typewriter for a long time before we finally realized there was no escaping the future, and the typewriter disappeared, god only knows where to... the bottom of some landfill no doubt.

Ahh Lynne, a terrible thing that ! A writer with a dried up imagination ! May it be re-hydrated some day and come back to life ! LOL ! Insouciance for sure, I find objects like these have both a melancholic and a joyous side to them... maybe the owner was a late night writer of naughty limericks and his wife threw the machine out the window in a fit of rage one night ?!? LOL !

Hey Bill, cool.... thought you might like that, what a gas that must have been to be doing stuff like that back in 1967 in California... those were the days when the Doors were playing in bars, when the Acid Tests were happening, when Ken Kesey was pulling pranks, and on and on... and I was still wearing shorts and playing capture the flag on those long summer nights, having no idea what was happening on the far coast of America... thanks for the quote !!!

Hey H2OCats ! Wouldn't it be GREAT if we could get in a time machine and go back to that desert road and see the machine come flying out of the car to crash land in the cactus ??? Yeah ! Well, guess I'll keep dreaming... and dreaming that I could ever afford the book today... glad you liked the bleached out photo... in fact, it was a partial eclipse of the typewriter ! LOL !

Selena, welcome, welcome, thanks for dropping in ! Come back anytime, ballgown or not ! (and I don't mean not dressed, just mean, jeans and t-shirts are fine here too... we're not particular about appearance... it's the art and the fun and the poetry that count ! The Sagittarian is lovely out in NZ, and do pay a visit to Steve too... his writing is exquisite...

Dear Steve, I'm sure it's a good thing computers were invented for guys like you who labor over each sentence until it is a finely honed work... in typewriter days there would have been piles of crumpled up balls of paper beside your desk, I'm sure... As for chucking your computer, have your tried those anti-stress squeeze toys ??? :-D

Hey Cynthia... thanks for dropping in, sorry there was a problem with the photo... blogger is wierd sometimes... but it opens on all the machines we use around here, so hopefully it will for you too eventually ?!? Will drop by, for sure, like right now, I'm just going too crazy between work and all the rest, need many more hours in each day... have trouble accepting limits, but then the old animal body imposes them for me... when I fall asleep in the middle of composing a blog post and my head falls drooling on the keyboard.... LOL ... I've liked what I've seen so far at OWL...

Owen said...

Salut Ciel... dans ce cas, je te souhaites d'excellentes vacances bretonnes !!! tu es passée juste quand j'étais en train de répondre un peu... ratrappant mes retards de la semaine... bonjour de Chantilly à Versailles, les grands Chateaux en dehors de Paris...

Ahhhh sacré Jeff !!! Je t'attendais avec mon vieux clavier de machine délabré, abandonné à son sort par terre... mais oui, elle prend sa juste place dans le musée de la Lanterne Magique... et tu as raison, que des choses à venir, les cartons de négatifs sont à peine ouverts et déjà des merveilles me tirent par la manche pour les mettre en avance, mais oui, mes cocottes, à chacun son tour... alors, toi, ralenti??? par la chaleur??? avec toute l'eau que tu nous déverse par flottes ??? je n'y crois point ! LOL ! Et oui, tu as raison, on devrait prendre le café avec Clo et Loulou, sur la terrasse d'un café, et pourquoi pas à Avignon, pendant que l'on y est, comme ça Nath pourrait passer avec Jilly, peut-être Peter et Adam et Gina descendront de Paris, et oh là là, ils sont partout ces blog-people...

Alors, j'esperais désesperement que tu allais nous composer une histoire sur cette vieille tacot de machine à écrire, comme Fernand la voiture !!! LOL ! Une bonne histoire à la tisane ... imaginons le vieux type qui tapait ces romans noirs toute la nuit avec son verre de vin à coté de ce clavier....

A bien bientôt amigo-go !

Unseen Rajasthan said...

An old typewriter !! I really loved the shot..Great post..Do check my another blog also i.e.Unseen Rajasthan

Janie said...

I never heard of the book, but I wish I had one of those valuable copies.
Interesting how our memories work, seeing the old typewriter photo and thinking of a book once read.
I'm trying to scan old photos, too. It's slow going, but all the memories are fun.

Peter said...

I guess I should do something similar... but albums were also quite nice ... to sit around and discuss with family. How will our digital photos be saved and looked at in 50 years?

Old typewriters had their charm, but I'm very happy to be able to use Word and my PC today!

Jo said...

I have actually heard of that book, and I think it's a wonderful idea. I love photograph like that.

Your photographs are wonderful too. Edgy. :-)

Roxana said...

wow! i've got so many old negatives as well - after i bought the scanneri was always busy with the new ones, never enough time to go back - and as it is, i still got a full bag of films in my refrigerator, which have yet to be developped :-(

so i envy you, that you are immersed into this fascinating process - very Proustian as well, no? each shot could be a little madeleine :-)

i love this picture, btw :-)

Owen said...

Roxana, hopefully you'll find the time at some point to get those rolls of film developed... and to go back into the proustian negatives, I'm lapping up every crumb of those madeleines and savoring all the memories that come flooding back in with them... never a dull moment ! Love your fuzzy tulips post... dreams set free...

============================

Hi Jo ! Glad you like the edginess to the photos... am trying to stay outside the bounds of roads more travelled. The book was wonderful, sure wish I'd had the good sense to have bought it way back when when I had my hands on it.

============================

Peter, I just learned this very day of another alternative for photos... if you have digital files of them, you can load them into "Aperture" software by Apple, and then easily compose a book layout, which you can then order as a book, and for a very reasonable price, they mail you the finished, very professional looking book of your photos...

==============================

Janie, definitely worth the time involved in scanning old photos... the memories are priceless !

==============================

Unseen, many thanks for dropping in...

The Sagittarian said...

Oh late again, sorry! (Don't feel you have to respond, just wanted you to know I had visited!!)
My great aunt had a typewriter which she gave me...she died aged 96 and I still have the thing. My 11 year old uses it, she likes the sound the keys make!

Adrian LaRoque said...

Owen I still have two of them, and they work great!