Lectures delivered at the symposium Ballardian Architecture: Inner and Outer Space, held at the Royal Academy of Arts on 15 May 2010.
Erno Goldfinger, Trellick Tower, North Kensington Photo: Royal Academy of Arts, LondonAcclaimed writer JG Ballard derived inspiration from aspects of the built environment that architectural convention and critics tend to overlook. His novels offer many insights into the flaws and consequences of the shopping centres, car parks, hotels, office towers and housing projects that make up so much of contemporary architectural endeavour.
This forum traces several themes in Ballard’s literary analysis of the contemporary built environment, including the concept of spectacle and role of the media in contemporary society, and how “invisible literatures” such as scientific journals, technical manuals, pornography and advertising copy can be seen as a literary counterpart to pop art and the “brutalist” aesthetic of modernity.
Three longer papers are followed by a series of brief but powerful commentaries which each open up particular insights into Ballard’s work, and together explore how Ballard’s perceptions may challenge and inform contemporary architecture.
Jeremy Melvin is Consultant Curator in the RA Architecture Programme.
Gray's lecture discussses the latent and manifest content of spaces and buildings, comparing Guy Debord's notion of the spectacle and Ballard's investigation of celebrity culture.
John Gray is a philosopher and author. He has held a variety of academic posts and was most recently Professor of European Thought at the LSE. Gray contributes to The Guardian, New Statesman, and The Times Literary Supplement. Recent books include Gray's Anatomy: Selected Writings (2009), Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (2007), and Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions (2004).
Clear presents a paper entitled, 'J.G. Ballard is an Enemy of the Architectural Profession'.
Clear is an architect and teacher at the Bartlett School of Architecture. His teaching focuses on the use of video, animation and motion graphics in the development and representation of spatial and architectural ideas and practices. He is editor of Architectures of the Near Future a special edition of Architectural Design questioning received notions of the future, drawing on such fields as synthetic space, psychoanalysis, postmodern geography, post-economics, cybernetics, and neurology.
Cunningham discusses the literary aspects of Ballard's writing in relation to architecture and provides comparisons between Ballard's work and that of W.G. Sebald and Iain Sinclair.
Cunningham is deputy director of the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture, University of Westminster and founder member of the editorial collective of Radical Philosophy. He is co-editor of the books Adorno and Literature (2006) and Photography and Literature in the Twentieth Century (2005), and has published widely on modernism, aesthetics, urban theory and the avant-garde.
The discussion elaborates on Ballardian registers of time, the idea of the future, the uncanny, sentimentality and the impact of technology and social networking.
Gavin Parkinson was educated at the University of Manchester (BA 1996) under the tutelage of David Lomas and subsequently completed his MA (1997) and Ph.D. (2000) under the supervision of Christopher Green at The Courtauld Institute. He lectured at the University of Oxford (2004-07) before joining The Courtauld as Lecturer in European Modernism in 2008. He is author of Surrealism, Art and Modern Science: Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Epistemology (2008) and The Duchamp Book (2008).
In this lecture, Coates explores points of contact between Ballard's work and his own architectural practice.
Coates is an architect, designer and teacher. His buildings in Japan include the Wall, Noah’s Ark and the Art Silo, and in Britain, the National Centre for Popular Music, Powerhouse::uk and the Geffrye Museum. He is also a prolific designer of lighting and furniture, with links to Alessi, AVMazzega, Ceramica Bardelli, Frag, Fratelli Boffi, Poltronova, Slamp and Varaschin. He is currently Professor and Head of Department of the School of Architecture & Design at the Royal College of Art.
Using the example of the short story Chronopolis Taunton investigates Ballard's engagement with modernist urbanism, Taylorism and Fordism.
Matthew Taunton completed his PhD at the London Consortium in 2008. His first book Fictions of the City: Class, Culture and Mass Housing in London and Paris was published by Palgrave in 2009. His research interests are in English and French Literature from 1850 to the present, urban studies, theory and politics, and he has published widely on these themes. He teaches at Goldsmiths, Central St. Martins and the Open University, and also writes for the New Statesman and The Times Literary Supplement.
Hall takes a passage from Ballard's book Terminal Beach and uses it to delve into ideas concerning the realities of internal and external worlds. His lecture also includes a consideration of Herzog and de Meuron's recent project Lincoln Rd. Car Park.
Chris Hall is a freelance journalist and writer who interviewed JG Ballard for Time Out and icon magazine, among others. His essay "Extreme Metaphor: A Crash Course in the Fiction of JG Ballard" (1997) was one of the first online articles about the author. He also runs Will Self's official website, will-self.com.
In this lecture Murray explores the links between Ballard and New Brutalism.
Joanne Murray is currently in the final stages of her PhD at Birkbeck College. Her thesis explores notions of ‘equivalence’ and the articulation of aftermath in New Brutalism and the fiction of JG Ballard. Joanne teaches Media and Cultural Studies at Kingston University.
Dan Holdsworth talks about his photographs in relation to JG Ballard’s writings
Dan Holdsworth creates landscape photographs in which the subtle merging of nature, architecture and technology combine with dramatic effects of light and space to produce powerful visions of our contemporary world. Holdsworth's photographs have a global range, from the apparently mundane car parks and motorway intersections – to the sublime glacial topography of Iceland.
Tim Abrahams talks about Shanghai at the time of the setting of Ballard’s Empire of the Sun and compares it to the city in the present day.
Tim Abrahams is a journalist and Associate Editor of Blueprint and a regular contributor to Building magazine. As well as writing for a host of other publications including Wired, New Statesman and GQ Style, he is also editing a book on collaboration between architects and other professionals, published by Birkhauser.
Claire Walsh, JG Ballard’s partner, shared his passionate interest in architecture and the built environment. In their 40 years together they explored Europe, from Corbusier’s cabin and the Alhambra to the Heathrow Hilton and Westway. Claire is an editor and researcher.