Crash: Homage to JG Ballard

In memory of JG Ballard, who died a year ago today, here is the catalogue essay that Will Self wrote for the Crash exhibition at the Gagosian gallery in London recently:

“Illuminated arrays glowed through the night, like the perimeter lights of a colony of prison camps, a new gulag of penal settlements where the forced labour was shopping and spending … ” So wrote JG Ballard in his final novel, Kingdom Come, a dissection of crap modern Britain before the bubble burst. In Ballard’s evocation of society drifting waywardly into an elective collective psychopathy, it is the shopping mall that is the cynosure – at once a temple of consumerism and biosphere that, poisoned by re-circulated air and piped muzak, becomes wholly decoupled from the dull Surrey dormitory towns that surround it.

Flight of Fancy

Norman Foster comes to me: “I’m sorry,” he moans pitifully, shaking the cuffs of his shirt as if he was Marley’s ghost and they were silken chains. “Sorry…?” I gag on mucous sleep. “What the hell for?”

“Stansted,” the architect wails. “I never should’ve designed it that way. True, it looked good on the back of the envelope — and elegant once my team had put it on the Cad system, but I now realise that it’s a monstrous wedge of a building, a static plane crash of a structure, forever ramming a humungous divot out of the living, beating heart of old England! Aaaargh! Euurgh! Oh woe is little me!”

Charing Cross Hospital

It matters where you are born. Not only the country or the city, the burg or the hamlet – but the precise location, its height above terra firma, its positioning in the welter of the world; for this is the still point at the exact centre of the ever expanding shock wave of your life.