Crash: Homage to J.G. Ballard

Ballardian (adj) 1. of James Graham Ballard (born 1930), the British novelist, or his works (2) resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard’s novels and stories, esp dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments ~Ballardian.com

On Friday night I watched ‘Crash’ (the naughty Cronenberg film based on Ballard’s novel, not the movie with Halle Berry) in preparation for yesterday’s excursion to the Gagosian to see ‘Crash: Homage to J.G. Ballard’.

There’s a scene at the start of the film where a woman opens her blouse, lifts one breast from her bra, and presses her bare flesh against the cold, hard metal of an aircraft.  It’s an erotic fusion of human and machine that recurs over and again throughout the film, although in far more painful circumstances.  

I confess to knowing little about Ballard, and after watching Crash, I was more than curious about what I might find.  The closest I came to Crash’s erotically maimed characters was an encounter with Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #253, 1992.  Also echoing key elements of the story are Douglas Gordon’s self-portraits of James Dean and Jayne Mansfield, created from mirrors such that the viewer becomes part of their tragic end. 

My favourite review of the exhibition comes from Oliver Basciano at Art Review, who makes lyrical observations like this one: “…the strong line in American sublime that pervades here is tempered by the inclusion of a few artists who work within the distinct mode of English melancholia”.  His words resonate with my experience: I certainly felt as though I carried myself through the exhibition in a dreamlike trance.

All the work can be found on the Gagosian website, but here’s a few of my favourites:

Michelle becomes part of James Dean’s tragic end, with Douglas Gordon’s Self-Portrait of You + Me (James Dean), 2007
Cyprien Gaillard, View of Sighthill Cemetery, 2008
Jane and Louise Wilson, Proton, Unity, Energy, Blizzard, 2000
Robert Rauschenberg — Jockey Cheer Glut, 1987
Ed Ruscha, Fountain of Crystal 2009
Dan Holdsworth, Untitled (Autopia) 1998
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