Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Extreme Metaphors

It would be no exaggeration to say that reading J G Ballard's Crash in my late teens had a substantial impact on my outlook on life.  I saw him speak a couple of times and he kindly signed my copy of The Kindness of Women (stupidly, I didn't take Crash with me) - I was also present at the NFT talk with JGB and David Cronenberg when the film of Crash came out and was banned by Westminster City Council; the book signing queue afterwards was long enough to put me off, another decision I've since regretted.

I've just finished Extreme Metaphors a collection of Interviews 1967-2008: the interviews in the first special Re:Search on JGB (partly reproduced here) were another huge influence in my younger days - so many stimulating ideas!  This latest volume is very repetitive but contains a lot of interesting (and prescient) stuff.  I seem to recall being surprised on seeing him being interviewed by Mavis Nicholson on her afternoon show in the 1970s, but that encounter doesn't appear here.  A few extracts:

With Frank Whitford in 1971:
'But technology in terms of videotape machines and so on may make it possible to have a continuous  alternative to direct experience, and I mean any alternative.  You can have this played back in a slow motion, or do you want it in infrared, or do you want it this and that.  Take your pick, like in a jukebox.  Technology may make it possible to have a continuous feedback to ourselves of information.  But at the moment I think we are starved of information.  I think that the biggest need of the painter or writer today is information.  I'd love to have a tickertape machine in my study constantly churning out material: abstracts from scientific journals, the latest Hollywood gossip, the passenger list of a 707 that crashed in the Andes, the colour mixes of a new automobile varnish.

With James Verniere in 1988:
'I think we're living in a landscape of enormous fictions, of which television is a major supplier.  The danger with TV is that it predigests and pre-empts any kind of original response by the viewer.  It just feeds the viewer a kind of reality.  (It has become, in fact, the new reality, just like processed food has become the staple diet of many people in the West.)  this force-feeding makes us rather like a lot of bullocks in a pen.  Reality now is a kind of huge advertising campaign, selling television's image of what life is about.  The real aim of TV is fulfilling its own needs.  Television is no longer an innovative medium here, and I imagine it's probably true in the States as well.'

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