It was suggested, that in Clarke’s City and the Stars we were allowed clear insight into the nature of the city only after moving outside that space and looking down on it. This is most certainly true and from that perspective we all (characters and readers) could see the lines and curves, the barriers and openings, the actual and once imagined of the world in which many lived. Diaspora was not what it had once seemed and we were able to explore its nature with new clarity.
Perhaps the perspective that Ballard gives is essentially the opposite (but with just as illuminating results). It seems that in The Atrocity Exhibition what we are given is a view of our world not from the outside in, but from the inside out. It is as though the author has dragged us deep inside the body of humanity and has forced us to push our senses out through the filters of the flesh. This is not a warm and soft place to be. “The inner world of the psyche…images are born, some kind of valid reality begins to assert itself” (Ballard 38).
Everything changes when we are held tight inside the body and forced to perceive. This is not a static brace that holds the revelations of discovery, it is a razor wire that drags us terrified and exhilarated from one experience to the next – and then back again. Repeat.
From within the twisting body Ballard makes us witnesses to his unfortunate truths: “the larger ambiguities to which the modern world was so eager to give birth, and its finish line was that death of affect, the lack of feeling, which seemed inseparable from the communications landscape” (Ballard 60).
Looking at our world through the defining filters of psychosis is a powerful and specific technique for examining the tangents of reality and fantasy. This is one very forceful approach demanding that: “the inner world of the psyche now has to be applied to the outer world of reality” (Ballard 75).
Is it effective? Do the pulses of cruelty and passion allow glimpses into the heart of the world in which we live?
I believe that this push of the novel works to lighten up the shadows in the corners. With it we can move to the darker, hard-to-get-to places of human nature/society and feel our way around the areas of intention, sexuality and place.
Ballard, J. G. The Atrocity Exhibition. Flamingo Press: Great Britain, 1993.