Thursday, 22 January 2009
Car Crash everything
Back to J.G. Ballard's Miracles of Life where he writes about the birth of his book, Crash. In 1970, Ballard came up with the idea that there was "a strong connection between sexuality and the car crash". In Miracles of life, he cites the deaths of Kennedy (a special kind of car crash), Grace Kelly and Diana as examples.
Back in 1970, Ballard was still not entirely convinced, so he decided "...to test the unconscious links between sex and the car crash by putting on an exhibition of crashed cars."
Three crashed cars were delivered to the gallery, closed circuit TVs were installed, and a young woman was hired to perform topless. And so to the opening.
"During the month they were on show the cars were ceaselessly attacked, daubed with white paint by a Hare Krishna group, overturned and stripped of wing mirrors and licence plates. ... My exhibition had in fact been a psychological test disguised as an art show, which is probably true of Hirst's shark and Emin's bed."
Ballard wrote the book, which was then made into a film which caused a huge controversy in the UK at least and as far as he was concerned, his case was proven.
Car crashes recur in literature and if there is a sexuality about them, then it is a very dark and violent one, in which the car symbolises economic power and much, much more besides. In White Tiger, the excellent booker-winning novel by Aravind Adiga, the crash involves a poor young street girl getting run down by the wealthy and corrupt Pinky Madam - who is driving the car on a drunken whim of fate. The murder sums up the relationship between rich and poor in India, in particular on the streets of Delhi and serves as a stimulus for all kind of dramatic plot developments.
A similar thing happens in Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, in which a young, black teenager, Henry Lamb, is run down by Sherman McCoy's Mercedes ( though his lover, Maria Ruskin, is driving on a whim of fate). Sherman McCoy is a bond trader (jump you fucker, jump!) and the story of both the hit-and-run and his misguided financial investments still seem relevant during the current financial crisis - a car crash of epic proportions if there was one.
If Bonfire of the Vanities is the ultimate economic disaster novel ( and if, like me, you are completely clueless and want to understand the background of both the deals in the book and how the current spate of bank crashes came to be, watch Evan Davies' excellent BBC series, The City Uncovered, in particular Tricks with Risk.).
If we are on the theme of car crashes, oh dear, I have to mention Manchester City, now the richest club in the world, and a disaster that just never seems to stop. It wasn't always that way. I was looking around some old things the other day, and chanced upon this ticket. Yes, 1976, the last time City won anything, The League Cup Final, Man City V Newcastle, 2-1, Dennis Tueart's overhead kick, it must be on youtube or something.
So the image for the day - my League Cup Final ticket from 1976. The Glory Days and I was there. And it only cost £1.50!