Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thoughts on James.

I was very sad about the passing of JG Ballard last month. Being someone who likes to observe contemporary entertainment culture a little too closely for their own good, Ballard's work was always on my radar; if for no other reason than the spread of its influence is so omnious throughout literary and popular culture. This said, of all his work I've only ever read Crash, and even then I only read it whilst researching my installation Medium Level Animated Violence from 2006. The work presented recorded footage from the videogame Burnout 3: Takedown, which has the objective of driving cars really fast and then crashing into things as best as possible. I took footage from the game, and edited all the driving bits out. As such, it seemed that reading a novel about a chap who enjoyed such things with real cars would be a good point of reference. So to the point is Ballard's writing that the key quote that I would center the catalogue essay [and by proxy the work] appeared within the first fifty pages:
"Sitting in the darkness on the floor cushions we watched the silent impacts flicker on the wall above our heads. The repeated sequences of crashing cars first calmed and then aroused me. Crusing alone on the motorway under the yellow glare of the sodium lights, I thought of myself at the controls of these imapcting vehicles."
- JG Ballard, Crash.
Despite the fact that he was talking about a couple of guys sitting on the floor watching Super 8 films, the allegory between this simuacral experience and playing videogames is not difficult to make. Sure, one can make an argument about the user holding a controller that allows them take make active decisions about the paths they take within a virtual landscape, but the fact remains that throughout this experience you are stationary, and your choices are illusionary - entirely dependent on the size of the playing field bequested to you by programmers.


"The future would be boring," says Jim Rossingol, quoting Ballard, in his column on Offworld, "Our modern age sits at the point at which the march of rationalism and reason has peaked, divorcing us from our early extremism and our innate primitivism, and giving us a bland culture of calm consumer choices and deadened emotions."

So we strap on Wii Remotes and play tennis, because we're never actually going to take up the real thing. We stand in arcades and stare at small monitors that emulate sniper rifles, dreaming of pink pixels like the guy Jake Gyllenhall plays in the film based on the book by the guy who never actually got to shoot anyone either (at least in the film anyway). And it's all harmless fun, because its entertainment.

It's quite the paradoxical situation. Whilst its perceivable that this sort of similacral living would only be conducive to more boredom, Rossingol via Ballard posits that if we're going to engage in this sort of thing it should be more realistic, more visceral:

That is not to say that videogames need to be more sensationalist, more vulgar, or more crass, but that they need not fear being more transgressive, or more expressive... They need not to shy away from their darker depictions of our fantasies, or become embarrassed when people point out how they dwell on violence and excitement. This, the safe excursion to the gladiatorial arena, is what games do best.
- Jim Rossingol, Ragdoll Metaphysics: JG Ballard, Boredom, And The Violent Promise Of Videogames.
The conclusion reached is an obvious one for armchair psychiatrists; that we should follow our obsessions, the things that fascinate and bewilder us. In his writing, Ballard made no short work of putting his obsessions to paper, taking a good long stare at the world and what his quirks said about it. If you draw a line from this, it can almost be used as an excuse to commit any act of creativity. Which, in a currently phase of feeling trapped within linear strands of thinking, is a very timely thing to be reminded of.

With the passing of James Graham Ballard, we lose another cultural antagonist. For a few seconds, the world is a little more boring because of it.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Quality control.

No, I can't believe I wrote a post about a puzzle either.

Let's never speak of it again.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Getting off the gear.

Chain Factor is my current excuse for taking too long to get anything done. I've dallied in things like this before, but I'm pretty sure this one is special. I'm told you can get it on your iPhone for free if you so desire.

You don't have anything better to do, right?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Camera Obscura, Easter Monday, and you (and me I guess).

In 2008 myself and Michael Prior of Tape Projects curated Electroprojections, an annual showcase of local and international video art that screens as part of Electrofringe, an annual electronic festival of electronic arts that is part of This Is Not Art...

And so it goes.

This Monday, a selection of works from the 2008 Electroprojections program will be shown at Serial Space in Chippendale heralding the return of Camera Obscura after a two year absence. Camera Obscura was the premiere monthly source of strange moments in screen culture, which met its end with the demise of Lanfranchi's Memorial Discotheque. And now it's back at a new home; huzzah!

After the Electroprojections program and a small break, Victor Sjöström’s classic (at least I keep hearing it's a classic, I've never actually seen it) silent horror film from 1921 “The Phantom Carriage”, will be screened. Filling in the silence will be a new soundtrack recorded by dark wave noise wunderkinds KTL, which features Stephen O’Malley of SUNN O))) and Peter ‘Pita’ Rehberg [for those playing at home].

If this sounds like a good idea to you, you should head to Serial Space, which is located at 33 Wellington Street, Chippendale
(which is here) by 7pm. If you would like more information on Camera Obscura, you can go to their facebook thing or email

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Current adventures in pop music: "Silence like the wind overtakes me..."

Dan Deacon is coming back to Australia, in support of his new album Bromst and that's pretty exciting. It's actually kind of amazing now that I think about it. Ever since being introduced to the video for his song The Crystal Cat (directed by Jimmy Joe Roche) by a friend of mine last year, I've been a tremendous fan of Deacon's warped electronics and squirrel vocal stylings. Should you be able to find a retailer in Sydney that stocks it, his album Spiderman of The Rings comes highly recommended as it is the ideal soundtrack for most things.

Whilst his recent live shows have incorporated many numbers of musicians, this run of Australian shows will apparently see Dan Deacon playing solo. As the above image by
Mick Ø and this video show, this will not necessarily be a bad thing.

If you would like to hear Get Older from Dan Deacon's new album Bromst, you can do so here.
If you would like to download almost all of Dan Deacon's back catalogue, you can do that here.
If you would like to hear or download an interview with Dan Deacon on The Sound of Yound America, where he discusses things like his history in composition and the evolution of his performance style, well, you might want to do that here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Australia Day resolution, 2009.

Try to keep in touch more. Just a little.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

If you ever needed proof the next four years might be better than the last eight...

" "I think we're going to be able to hang on to one of these [a Blackberry]. My working assumption, and this is not new, is that anything I write on an email could end up being on CNN... So I make sure to think before I press 'send'." "

- Future president of the United States, and friend of Spiderman, Barrack Obama, showing that he's a thinker.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

This year, do it for the economy.

"I'm in Australia. I think it's important to help out, you know, the economy out here, everywhere in the world... And what's wrong with a doing a little shopping?... It's New Year's. I need a New Year's dress."

Thanks Paris.
No really, that's just swell of you.