What is it about wildly influential California artists and their romance with the automobile? Heck, if cars had never come to Cali (perish the thought), Cal Arts would barely have any faculty! Our last installment of Performance Art and the Automobile brought us Chris Burden's hyper-mile'n car-bike. This time around, we've got "Fast" Eddie Ruscha (Roo-Shay) and the violence he did do to a Royal Typewriter. His accomplice? A 1963 Buick LeSabre.
It was 1966, somewhere on Highway 91, east of L.A. Ruscha, a friend, and a photographer, along with the aforementioned pre-digital mechanical letter-making contraption, boarded the '63 Buick and...well, hooned. Ruscha assembled the results into an art book, Royal Road Test, that's now highly collectible, selling for more than a grand. Here's an excellent account of the event, courtesy of rare-books blog Bookride:
Getting up to 90 miles per hour on a deserted road with Ed Ruscha driving, Mason Williams (designated thrower) ejected a Royal Typewriter from the window and Patrick Blackwell photographed the incident including shots of the scattered parts and the keys. As I recall there is one shot off a letter draped from a cactus in the desert scrub. The core of the book is a photographic examination of the wreckage of the typewriter strewn over many square yards; it is done in an ironic, deadpan Consumer Report, forensic documentary style with times and wind speed etc., There is a vague suspicion that one or two shots may have been set up or 'improved'. One cataloguer notes that it 'is all done with a species of quasi-scientific gravitas...' A great and influential 'artist's book' - one day another trio may retrace their steps and throw another Royal, or possibly a Dell, into the Californian desert. Or the now grizzled threesome will do it again like a Crosby, Stills and Nash reunion concert.
Oh, we certainly hope so. And if it ever happens, we'll be there to live-blog it and post the video.