340. Art that is diagnostic.
March 7, 2010 § Leave a comment
Part of a review of an exhibition.
This disparate collection has been selected and in some cases created as a response to Ballard’s ‘enormous cultural significance’. It aims to illustrate ‘a dystopian vision of the present and future which is the prevailing landscape for a wide range of artists working today’. Ballard’s creation of worlds in which something nasty is heaving under the glossy surface of modernity, and his interest in art, made explicit here through the inclusion of work by people he admired, are what hold it together. Many individual pieces have identifiable connections with his novels and journalism, and extracts from his writings are printed in large type opposite illustrations in the catalogue. Some are appropriate glosses on a style: Rauschenberg’s Jockey Cheer Glut, a downright jolly assemblage of yellow and red scrap metal, is set against a sentence from one of the stories in Terminal Beach: ‘Pop artists deal with the lowly trivia of possessions and equipment that the present generation is lugging along with it on its safari into the future.’ Others remind you that the dystopian world has its pleasures. On the page facing Allen Jones’s Archway a sculpture in the Heathrow Hilton, Ballard’s favourite London building, you read that ‘sitting in its atrium one becomes, briefly, a more advanced kind of human being. Within this remarkable building one could never fall in love, or need to.’ Even when the overlap between a work and anything Ballard wrote is accidental, or vague, there is common ground in his attention to the look of things. He saw them as a painter might. His language was precise and often technical: his vocabulary when cars are involved is that of a maintenance manual; his sex scenes look like an atlas of anatomy.