Somebody Had a Bad Day

“The ambiguous role of the car crash needs no elaboration—apart from our own deaths, the car crash is probably the most dramatic event in our lives, and in many cases the two will coincide. Aside from the fact that we generally own or are at the controls of the crashing vehicle, the car crash differs from other disasters in that it involves the most powerfully advertised commercial product of this century, an iconic entity that combines the elements of speed, power, dream and freedom within a highly stylized format that defuses any fears we may have of the inherent dangers of these violent and unstable machines.”

J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition

Lyndon Baines Johnson Freeway and Texas Instruments Boulevard, Dallas, Texas

The Marriage of Reason and Nightmare

“The marriage of reason and nightmare that dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the spectres of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermo-nuclear weapons systems and soft-drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudo-events, science and pornography. Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century – sex and paranoia…In a sense, pornography is the most political form of fiction, dealing with how we use and exploit each other, in the most urgent and ruthless way.”
― J.G. Ballard

Tony Collins Art, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Make a sudden, destructive unpredictable action; incorporate

Is it a bomb?
Or simply a disposable fuel tank.

Does it matter? Now, anyway, it’s just a sculptural form.
A piece of shaped steel, sexy somehow. It pulls the eye to it.
You wonder about its story. Where did it come from?
Why is it hanging there?

Does it matter?

Bulldog

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Detail of Mural by Cathey Miller/Cathedonia

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas Cathey MIller, Cathedonia (click to enlarge)

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas
Cathey MIller, Cathedonia
(click to enlarge)

“The marriage of reason and nightmare that dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the spectres of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermo-nuclear weapons systems and soft-drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudo-events, science and pornography. Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century – sex and paranoia…In a sense, pornography is the most political form of fiction, dealing with how we use and exploit each other, in the most urgent and ruthless way.”
— J.G. Ballard

Entropy

Exposition Park, Dallas, Texas

Exposition Park, Dallas, Texas

Exposition Park, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

“The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam…”
— J.G. Ballard

Traffic

I think the key image of the 20th century is the man in the motor car. It sums up everything: the elements of speed, drama, aggression, the junction of advertising and consumer goods with the technological landscape. The sense of violence and desire, power and energy; the shared experience of moving together through an elaborately signalled landscape.
We spend a substantial part of our lives in the motor car, and the experience of driving condenses many of the experiences of being a human being…, the marriage of the physical aspects of ourselves with the imaginative and technological aspects of our lives. I think the 20th century reaches its highest expression on the highway. Everything is there: the speed and violence of our age; the strange love affair with the machine, with its own death.
—-J.G. Ballard, Narration for Crash! (1971), a short film by Harley Cokeliss

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

“In a sense life in the high-rise had begun to resemble the world outside – there were the same ruthlessness and agression concealed within a set of polite conventions.”
― J.G. Ballard, High-Rise

Majestic Parking

“‘He thinks you need a lobotomy. He told me you’re obsessed by car parks.’”
—-J.G. Ballard, Super-Cannes

parking

“An immense peace seemed to preside over the shabby concrete and untended grass. The glass curtain-walling of the terminal buildings and the multi-storey car-parks behind them belonged to an enchanted domain.”
—-J.G. Ballard, Crash

“At the time he had found himself wishing that Catherine were with him — she would have liked the ziggurat hotels and apartment houses, and the vast, empty parking lots laid down by the planners years before any tourist would arrive to park their cars, like a city abandoned In advance of itself.”
—-J.G. Ballard, Concrete Island

“Wilder pressed on. “I know Charlotte has reservations about life here — the trouble with these places is that they’re not designed for children. The only open space turns out to be someone else’s car-park.”
—-J.G. Ballard, High-Rise

“The town centre consisted of little more than a supermarket and shopping mall, a multi-storey car-park and filling station. Shepperton, known to me only for its film studios, seemed to be the everywhere of suburbia, the paradigm of nowhere.”
—-J.G. Ballard, The Unlimited Dream Company

“The street lamps shone down on the empty car parks, yet there were no cars or people about, no one was playing the countless slot-machines in the stores and arcades.”
—-J.G. Ballard, Hello America

“Two vehicles occupied opposite corners of the car-park, breaking that companionable rule by which drivers arriving at an empty car-park place themselves alongside each other.”
—-J.G. Ballard, The Kindness of Women

“Acres of car parks stretched around me, areas for airline crews, security personnel, business travellers, an almost planetary expanse of waiting vehicles. They sat patiently in the caged pens as their drivers circled the world. Days lost for ever would expire until they dismounted from the courtesy buses and reclaimed their cars.”
—-J.G. Ballard, Millennium People

“I had left the Jensen in the multi-storey car park that dominated the town, a massive concrete edifice of ten canted floors more mysterious in its way than the Minotaur’s labyrinth at Knossos — where, a little perversely, my wife suggested we should spend our honeymoon.”
—-J.G. Ballard, Kingdom Come

“Thousands of inverted buildings hung from street level — car parks, underground cinemas, sub-basements and sub-sub-basements — which now provided tolerable shelter, sealed off from the ravaging wind by the collapsing structures above.”
—-J.G. Ballard, The Wind from Nowhere

“Already, without touching her, he knew intimately the repertory of her body, its anthology of junctions. His eyes turned to the multi-storey car park beside the apartment blocks above the beach. Its inclined floors contained an operating formula for their passage through consciousness.”
—-J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition

Mass Transit

J.G. Ballard wrote a short story named “The Concentration City” (you can read the PDF HERE) about a city that has grown to encompass the entire universe… theoretically and practically – whether it is actually is another question.

The protagonist tries to find the edge of the city, to find “free space” – to find an area where he can build and use a flying machine, by hopping a supersonic express sleeper train and riding it west for weeks.

Unfortunately, he discovers that no matter where you go, there you are.

Here in Dallas – which is shaped sort of like a bulls-eye, with concentric rings of highways and radial connectors – all the trains run out of the center and stop. There is no endless loop. They make you get off the train at the end, before it switches track and heads back in.

Otherwise it would be tempting to get on and never exit. Ride the endless electric rails – watch the city go by, circuit after infinite circuit, the commuters come and go. Everything would slide past forever.

Maybe it’s best that you can’t do that.

transit1

transit2

(click to enlarge)

[…]
“The surgeon hesitated before opening the door. “Look,” he began to explain sympathetically, “you can’t get out of time, can you? Subjectively it’s a plastic dimension, but whatever you do to yourself you’ll never be able to stop that clock”- he pointed to the one on the desk-“or make it run backward. In exactly the same way you can’t get out of the City.”
“The analogy doesn’t hold,” M. said. He gestured at the walls around them and the lights in the streets outside. “All this was built by us. The question nobody can answer is: what was here before we built it?”
“It’s always been here,” the surgeon said. “Not these particular bricks and girders, but others before them. You accept that time has no beginning and no end. The City is as old as time and continuous with it.”
“The first bricks were laid by someone,” M. insisted. “There was the Foundation.”
“A myth. Only the scientists believe in that, and even they don’t try to make too much of it. Most of them privately admit that the Foundation Stone is nothing more than a superstition. We pay it lip service out of convenience, and because it gives us a sense of tradition. Obviously there can’t have been a first brick. If there was, how can you explain who laid it, and even more difficult, where they came from?”
“There must be free space somewhere,” M. said doggedly. “The City must have bounds.”
“Why?” the surgeon asked. “It can’t be floating in the middle of nowhere. Or is that what you’re trying to believe?”
M. sank back limply. “No”
The surgeon watched M silently for a few minutes and paced back to the desk. “This peculiar fixation of yours puzzles me. You’re caught between what the psychiatrists call paradoxical faces. I suppose you haven’t misinterpreted something you’ve heard about the Wall?”
M. looked up. “Which wall?”
The surgeon nodded to himself. “Some advanced opinion maintains that there’s a wall around the City, through which it’s impossible to penetrate. I don’t pretend to understand the theory myself. It’s far too abstract and sophisticated. Anyway I suspect they’ve confused this Wall with the bricked-up black areas you passed through on the Sleeper. I prefer the accepted view that the City stretches out in all direction without limits.””
[…]
—-The Concentration City (1957). James Graham Ballard. The Complete Short Stories