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Ballardosphere Wrap-Up, Part 4

Author: • May 1st, 2007 •

Category: academia, architecture, Ballardosphere, Chris Petit, film, psychogeography, psychopathology, short stories, surrealism, theme parks, William Burroughs


Ballardian: Papers of Surrealism

Jeannette Baxter, organiser of this weekend’s J.G. Ballard Conference at the University of East Anglia, delivers a challenging examination of Surrealist influences in Ballard’s Running Wild for Issue 5 of the online journal, Papers of Surrealism.

‘The Surrealist Fait-Divers: Uncovering Violent Histories in J. G. Ballard’s Running Wild’: Abstract

In this paper I read J.G. Ballard’s illustrated novella, Running Wild (1984), as a subversive example of the surrealist fait divers. One of the most ethically challenging fragments in Ballard’s often controversial oeuvre, this modified detective fiction presents the reader with a catalogue of contemporary atrocities – parricide, political assassination and terrorism, acts of random violence – and challenges us, the readers, to get our hands dirty. I explore how Ballard negotiates the cultural and historical consequences of global capitalism in Running Wild, and how he tests, through fiction, the controversial theory that moral and social transgressions are legitimate correctives to psychological and social inertia. In this context, Ballard incorporates a variety of surrealist texts (paintings, photographs, collages) into his fait divers, I suggest, in order to open up moments of critical and ethical reflection, and to provoke the reader into a confrontation with the deviant logics and violent psychopathologies which operate below the polite surface of contemporary history and culture.

[ Thanks, Gwyn ]



Ballardian: William S. Burroughs

The Guardian newspaper, picking up on our breaking news about the forthcoming Ballard World attraction, says this:

A new theme park – Dickens World – is to open in England. Not to be outdone, the sardonic fansite, www.ballardian.com, announces “Ballard World”. It will, we are told, open in 2008 … the site reports, with the straightest of faces … And, down the line, there’s “Burroughs World”, with rumpus rooms where customers can hang out (literally) and experience the novel pleasures of autoerotic asphyxiation, before joining the mugwumps in the slime pool.

Hmmm. Even though this is ostensibly a Ballard site, I must say Burroughs World sounds like the most fun.


Ballardian: J.G. Ballard -- Complete Short Stories


The indefatigable Mike Bonsall, the man behind the generative Another Atrocity mash up on this site, has been at it again. Mike, who teaches new technologies at Sheffield Hallam University, is ‘exploring the use of corpus linguistics analysis on Ballard’s uniquely resonant use of language’.

For his latest project, which takes a scalpel to Ballard’s Complete Short Stories volumes, he tells us:

“I’ve made a concordance of (nearly) all of JGB’s short works. Perhaps the best way to understand it is to have a play with it (you can for example see the whole of the wordlist in the left panel in one go by clicking ‘show undivided list’). Example of use; in the short works JGB mentions Ernst 12 times, and his ‘Garden Airplane Traps’ is mentioned in the shorts; Notes Towards…, Atrocity Exhibition and The Assassination Weapon.

I had to sacrifice second-hand copies of the short stories and AE to the scalpel, the scanner, the OCR and the text-editor. About two thousand pages in all, a real labour of love. I’ve held back from making the full text visible as I think JGB deserves every penny of his royalties and it would be an obvious breach of his copyright – though I think the concordance itself is fair use.

I’m now working on the novels – Enjoy!”

Not content with that, Mike also reports that he’s ‘been immersed in my latest project on Ballardian psychogeography. This is a mash-up of all the places JG mentions in the complete short works, displayed on a GoogleMap. I’ve only done A to C so far but you can already see the man’s imagination is global.’

Finally, Mr Bonsall will be delivering a paper at the JGB Conference, which explores the ‘obsessions and archetypes that echo through Ballard’s work’ deriving from Ballard’s time as assistant editor at the journal Chemistry and Industry, from 1958-64, a period when Ballard was ‘working on his first novels, a number of short stories and a series of collages he called ‘Project for a New Novel’, partly inspired by the typography of his sister journal Chemical & Engineering News.’

[ via the JGB Mailing list ]



Ballardian: Chris Petit
Still from Radio On (1980; dir. Chris Petit).

Chris Petit reviews Tony Saint’s book, The Asbo Show, with ‘obligatory Ballard references’:

The result … remains an interesting mix: of Ballard’s global suburbia, with its interzones watched by security cameras; a dash of Buñuel, in its gleeful loathing of the bourgeoisie; and something more parochial and English, in its understanding of humour as a reactionary force.

[ thanks, Ben ]

As a filmmaker and novelist, of course, Petit has never been backward about the influence of Ballard on his own work; his Robinson remains the best book JGB never wrote. And Petit’s film, Radio On, has at last been given a DVD release; set among England’s motorways and service stations, you just know it will be Ballardian – and rather good, as well. See Lyle Hopwood’s excellent, evocative review of the DVD.



Researchers are working towards building a ‘self healing’ house that repairs itself during an earthquake. According to the research team, the house is on the lines of the story ‘The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista’ by British writer J.G. Ballard, where the author describes a psychotropic house that changes its shape, protects itself and even heals itself, reports Livescience.

The house walls are made of nano polymer particles. When squeezed under pressure during an earthquake, the nano polymer particles flow into cracks and harden to form a solid material. This apart, the walls also boast of unique load bearing steel frames and contain wireless, battery less sensors and RFID tags that help collect data about stresses and vibration, temperature and humidity over time.

NMI chief executive Professor Terry Wilkins said: “What we’re trying to achieve here is very exciting; we’re looking to use polymers in much tougher situations than ever before on a larger scale. If there are any problems, the intelligent sensor network will alert residents straightaway so they have time to escape”.”

[ via Yahoo News India ]

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2 Responses »

  1. That concordance is really cool. Bravo to Mike Bonsall.

  2. ‘Radio On’ is a fantastic film; I managed to catch it twice at a local arthouse cinema two years back, and it had a *profound* effect on me. I’m holding onto a battered VHS copy like grim death, so it’s excellent to hear that it’s finally found a DVD release.

    Ballard is an obvious influence not only upon Petit’s filmmaking, but also his attempt at literary urban landscapes. His first novel, ‘Robinson’, is at times a virtual pastiche of Ballard’s writing. Although, I must add, I’d opt for ‘Radio On’ any day of the week.

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