Monthly Archives: February 2009

City of Tomorrow …Yesterday

Look no cranes.

Look no cranes.





I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, as I really don’t have any profound insight, only innane musings.  But I thought they were just fascinating!  Enjoy.


Theseus. The catacombs were labyrinthine, like twisted entrails. In its descent the decryptionist lost its bearings, all reference to an exterior reality. And yet this was more than a free-fall down the rabbit hole. The eerie maze into which the creature delved obliterated distinctions between aboveground and below. The red string that would guide it through the corridors led not to an exit but to the heart-chamber of the complex: an ambiguous center at best. A library, an archive, its walls carved with niches, each bearing a scroll. The decryptionist felt a vague sense of transgression, a voyeur in the minotaur’s den. It unrolled each vellum text, caressed the ciphered words. Its task could begin.

Biomechanoid. Newel stirred cream and honey into his coffee and brought up the discordant array of windows on the dusty LCD screen of the aging computer. The Atrocity Exhbition attempts to vivisect its cultural moment by dissecting the past or memory of a surreal and quasi-speculative future,’ Newell wrote. ‘Its structure resembles both a disjointed cityscape or unfathomable machine and a fragmented human body, a fleshscape, as confused and dismembered as a mutilated anatomical textbook whose spine has decayed and whose pages have been shuffled like a pack of sallow and near-pornographic tarot cards – the Pudenda, the Abdomen, the Ulcerous Lip, the Radiation-Seared Thorax. And yet, as it collapses real and imaginary into the single undifferentiated phantasmagoria that is the Baudrillardian hyperreal, the text fuses these two parallel metaphors into a machine-flesh hybrid, an erotic cyborg, as fetishized and grotesquely appealing as a Giger Biomechanoid – thus the prevalence of the billboard-labyrinth, the malformed sculpture gardens, and above all the car-crash. The world of The Atrocity Exhibition is not a straightforward escape as in a dream narrative but a psychosis in which real and unreal/imaginative are rendered miscible and indeed indistinguishable. To quote, Andrzej Gasiorek’s Deviant Logics, “…this fragmentation of the prosaic world, which blurs the boundary between fantasy and reality, creates a liminal space in which memories begin to stir” (63). The breakdown of distinctions between organic and inorganic mirrors the more fundamental deconstruction of the Real at the heart of the text.’

The Nectar of Exegesis. Clippings from the text hung from clothes-pegs like developing photographs in some proto-cyberpunk pornographer’s darkroom. Others were plastered against the walls of the tomb-like subterrane, overlapping with pages culled from medical dictionaries and coffee table books of surrealist painters, with esoteric critical texts. The decryptionist flitted about the secular sepulcher, hovering at some particular constellation of words and images, a quizzical clockwork hummingbird. Early on it had decided that the cipher, the ambrosial nectar of deconstruction, would never be extracted through a linear reading. It inhaled the heady perfume of its efforts with detached pleasure.

Moulting. ‘By depicting its atrocities as endlessly repeated, the text transmutes their raw horror or shock value – their affective capabilities – into a kind of numbed and detached nausea.’ Newell flickered between screens, a morass of information. He sipped at his third cup of coffee. ‘This is intrinsically connected to the breakdown between real and imagined. The Atrocity Exhibition is commenting on the capacity for the media to not only desensitize its consumers to depictions of violence but to transform our entire relationship to representation itself, to “mimetization.” Authenticity becomes not so much disputable as unimportant through the lens of the text, just as the difference between dream-world and real-world collapses for the reader as the protagonist’s psychosis (“simulation”) develops. As we explore the catacombs of the text we gradually come to inhabit this disaffected space, becoming ourselves mechanistic, shedding layers of shock and perturbation and metamorphosing into something both more and less than human.’


Troglodytic Knot-Tying. The Atrocity Exhibition’s peculiar algebra could only be understood through a more complete subsumption into its baroquely chaotic quasi-narrative; yet even complete immersion inevitably failed to distill the book into a wholly comprehensible form. Variables in its intricate formulae remained unsolved and numinous. The decryptionist gnawed at fraying strands of meaning in the muted barrow-light, tying together knots of texture and imagery and then watching its configurations unravel.


This is my critical response – a pastiche/homage of the book, hopefully with some critical engagement.  Matthew, if this isn’t what you’d envisioned, let me know and I’ll write up something else, and this can just be an example of my pretentious pseudo-creative writing.


Works Cited


Ballard, J.G. The Atrocity Exhibition. Great Britain: Flamingo, 1993.


Gasiorek, Andrzej. “Deviant Logics.” Contemporary British Novelists: J.G. Ballard, 58-80.,+JG+Ballard&ei=TL2DSeDyOIPIlQST4vXuBQ#PPP1,M1, Feb. 7.

Hyperreality Television

Alright y’all, if I promise to forthcome with a post of well cited academic thoroughness, will you accept this youtube video in lieu in the present? Besides the ROFL factor, it does do an excellent job of presenting every aspect of the debate, and frankly, despite the hyperbolic satire, I feel this is only inches away from our current media environment. Has anyone watched CNN lately? Yikes! DISCLAIMER: NSFW

Prefatory theory: “There is no real and no imaginary except at a certain distance. What happens when this distance, even the one separating the real from the imaginary, begins to disappear and to be absorbed by the model alone? Currently, from one order of simulacra to the next, we are witnessing the reduction and absorption of this distance, of this separation which permits a space for ideal or critical projection.” (Baudrillard)

I believe what we have here is these ideal and critical spaces collapsing into one. And they said irony was dead.

***ADDENDUM: Sorry to smut up the front page like this, Youtube had to select the raunchiest frame from an otherwise visually tame piece.

YouTube Preview Image

Planes intersect:

“On one level, the world of public events, Cape Kennedy and Viet Nam mimetized on billboards. On another level, the immediate personal environment, the volumes of space enclosed by my opposed hands, the geometry of my own postures, the time-values contained in this room, the motion-space of highways, staircases, the angle between these walls. On a third level, the inner world of the psyche. Where these planes intersect, images are born. With these co-ordinates some kind of valid reality begins to clarify itself” – J.G. Ballard

I brought this passage up today as indicative of a prominent and overarching theme in The Atrocity Exhibition, and although it had no particular questions attached, It might be useful in grounding monday’s discussion on the book’s negotiation of interiority / exteriority, as well as issues of hyperreality raised today.

(re-)read Baudrillard’s “Science Fiction and Simulacra” for Monday – in addition to its ties with The Atrocity Exhibition, we’ll be revisiting ideas of simulation and hyperreality later on; Baudrillard’s article will be working as our common point of reference.

Map-territory relations: the formal title for the concepts introduced at the beginning of class, encompassing both Baudrillard’s and Borges’ notions of what might be called the irreducibility of space: read “On Exactitude in Science
and to see the same ideas drawn another way, take a minute to navigate a map is not the map

also, CNN’s “the Moment” – in terms of layered images, media, consolodated by a single event

I thought I’d post the question on trauma/temporality as well, derived from a class I had earlier on terrorism and writing:

In a critical analysis entitled “Trauma’s Time”, Aimee L. Pozorski (drawing on the fiction of R. Clifton Spargo) describes the time of trauma as “a time that is paradoxically not the moment itself, but ‘what comes after,’ what will always come after, the ‘afterwardsness or belatedness of trauma itself.”

With this relationship of time/trauma in mind, what elements of futurity (post-trauma?) resonate within Ballard’s text – where is it situating itself temporally in relation to the trauma of its historical moment, and to what effect?  

And on a less related note, I’ll be in Irving K on the third floor Thursday between 1 and 4pm, working on a proposal for the film project – if you’re around and are interested, drop by!

Our discussion of the artificial city of Diaspar that is maintained through by the central computer’s memory banks, got me thinking about memory and how we have experimented with memory in the present. I was astounded to discover the extent to which artificial memory experimentation has been occurring in recent medical research. If you had told anyone 50 years ago that before the end of their lives there would be machines that could be implanted in our brains to help restore and improve memory and control physical action, they would have sent you to the looney bin. The concept of a brain chip is something which even I find hard to believe, but there is no hiding the fact that the technology is here and in use as we speak.

For the most part, experimentation with brain chip technology has been centred around medical research, more specifically, in aiding severely paralysed or brain damaged individuals in regaining motor and cognitive function. In March 2005 Matthew Nagel was the first paralysed individual to successfully receive a brain chip implant and with the help of this handy addition:

He can think his TV on and off, change channels and alter the volume all thanks to the technology and software linked to devices in his home (

This is all very new and exciting but I can’t help to feel slightly nervous about a programmed technology that directly interferes with brain function. In 2003 Popular Science released an article about the technology:

Medicine aside, Biomedical engineer Theodore Berger sees potential commercial and military applications for the brain chip, which is partially funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Learning how to build sophisticated electronics and integrate them into human brains could one day lead to cyborg soldiers and robotic servants, he says.


Now doesn’t that just sound like something out of a sci-fi horror flick or what? It would be more than enough if experimentation stopped at the medical and military applications but further research has been done in the hopes that this brain chip could be used for ‘cosmetic’ reasons. Would you agree to getting a brain chip if it promised to insure you never again forgot a name or a face? Some researchers are saying that implants could potentially increase memory recall over 10 times normal functioning. Imagine the educational repercussions if brain chip implants provided instant photographic memory recall to students with the financial freedom to have one installed. Such technology makes the future seem uncertain. 50 years from now will we be relying on computers to think for us? It is a scary thought, but one which is becoming ever closer to being realized.