Oct 12, 2008
Illustration by John Coulthart.
Originally published in the catalogue for the exhibition ‘J.G. Ballard, Autopsy of the New Millennium’, held at the CCCB, Barcelona, Spain, October 2008. It accompanied the selection of Ballardian ‘home movies’ I selected for the exhibition.
THE 1ST BALLARDIAN FESTIVAL OF HOME MOVIES: A competition for 1-minute films shot on mobile phones
1) Shoot a film using your mobile phone’s video function, no more than one minute in duration, and using no post-production or processing — the film must be shot entirely ‘in camera’.
2) The theme: anything to do with the Collins English Dictionary definition of ‘Ballardian’.
Many of J.G. Ballard’s predictions have been realised. In 1967 he saw that Ronald Reagan would malignantly marry deviant politics with hyperreal show business. In 1974 he predicted that computers and identity theft would threaten daily lives more than overwrought nuclear Armageddon scenarios. And in 1984 he envisaged an enveloping electronic reality remarkably similar to that generated by the social-networking phenomenon known to us all as ‘YouTube’. Extrapolating from the popularity of emergent video technology and the pervasiveness of televisual culture, Ballard saw that the average home would eventually come to take on the qualities of a TV studio. ‘That’s what the domestic home aspires to these days,’ he said. ‘We’re all going to be starring in our own sit-coms, and they’ll be strange sit-coms, too, like the inside of our heads. That’s going to come, I’m absolutely sure of that, and it’ll really shake up everything.’ Ballard even said he’d like to organise a Festival of Home Movies: ‘It could be wonderful. You might find an odd genius, a Fellini or Godard of the home movie, living in some suburb. I’m sure it’s coming. Using modern electronics, home movie cameras and the like, one will begin to retreat into one’s own imagination. I welcome that.’
In an age of micro-celebrity, we are all indeed starring in our sitcoms, broadcasting the most intimate details of our private lives to the world. And sometimes it does indeed appear that what is not on screen does not count, that our real-world, meatspace bodies have no validity unless mediated by a lens of some sort. These days, it’s easier than ever: Ballard’s ‘home studio’ goes wherever you do, sticks to the skin in the form of mobile phones, owned by half the world’s population according to latest studies. Many of these phones have the processing power of small computers, many have cameras.
As Ballard has said, the real function of the mobile phone is to ‘separate its users from the surrounding world and isolate them within the protective cocoon of an intimate electronic space’. The 2-megapixel camera lens becomes a third eye, perceiving the world on our behalf.
Blessed with a Ballardian eye, what exactly do you see?
– Simon Sellars, ballardian.com, 2008.
Ben Slater; ‘Vista 8′ (winner)
Shot among the Vista 8 high-rise in Singapore, the film seems to be recording the last moments of a suicide.
Pablo Sgarbi; ‘120 Days of An Angle Between Two Walls’ (runner up)
A robot reads the Marquis de Sade, dispassionately intoning visions of squirting buttocks and jets of blood while a common household object takes the starring role.
Shahin Afrassiabi; ‘Home’
An effective study in boredom, the psychological blank slate against which all manner of deviant behaviour is spontaneously generated, like flyblown maggots on rotting meat.
Mike Bonsall; ‘Day of Creation’
A sly appraisal of Ballard’s work and its reliance on repetition, recycling, détournement, collage, bricolage.
Julian Gough; ‘Flesh Frame’
This film chases its own tail, eventually disappearing into the black hole of inner space. Utterly beguiling.
Russell Miller; ‘A Journey Through A Distant Land’
Classic Ballardian imagery, watched, perhaps, by an artificial eye scanning the ruins of a humourless Earth.
Jack Strain; ‘Ballardian’
Menacing and dark, the snapshot of madness at the very end is bizarre and unsettling, perhaps the only response to the crushing insanity of the outside world.
A privileged glimpse at a malfunctioning brain. But the synaptic process is impenetrable and the viewer is left on the outer, impotently guessing at the intent.