The Jet Age Compendium: Eduardo Paolozzi and Ambit Magazine

There’s an excellent exhibition on at the moment at Raven Row, in London’s Spitalfields. It brings together selected works by Eduardo Paolozzi from the 50s through to the 70s.

Those who only know Paolozzi as a sculptor, and through his mosaics on the London Underground or his massive Newton for the British Library forecourt might not know of his strong political and graphic design interests. Alongside acid-coloured prints (some of the first British Pop Art) and the strange toys the artist scavenged from flea markets, the exhibition presents a selection of collaborations between Paolozzi and Ambit magazine in the late 60s and 70s (although the relationship continued into the 90s).

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Posted September 25, 2009 | Comments Off on The Jet Age Compendium: Eduardo Paolozzi and Ambit Magazine.

The future is something with a fin on it: J.G. Ballard RIP

I would, of course, have written about JG Ballard last week, but I was at the London Book Fair at Earl’s Court, an orgy of such hellish proportions, and in such bleak midcentury-commercial modernist surroundings, that Ballard would certainly have approved.

My own first contact with Ballard would have been the one that most obituaries have mentioned first: the autobiographical The Empire of the Sun, and it’s subsequent Spielberg adaptation. But it was Empire‘s sequel, The Kindness of Women, or more specifically, its banning by my mother on the grounds that it was “not suitable”, that got me hooked.

My mum can’t remember now why she took this attitude—and I never read the book—but it spurred me on to discover more, and, of course, I discovered much, much more. From the utopic post-apocalyptic vision of The Drowned World, to the feverish, disturbing The Day of Creation, leading ultimately to the motherlodes of Crash and The Atrocity Exhibition. And in recent years, the late flowering of Cocaine Nights, Super-Cannes and the others: concentrated distillations of the immediate; a writer still at the height of his powers; a writer in his seventies still the most vital that we had.

Crash remains my favourite work, a work as central to the development of my own tastes as Naked Lunch or Ulysses, and the one that most successfully embedded itself in the world I saw around me, and made it strange, unreal, terrifying and exciting. I am lucky to live in London, where a brief blast along the Westway is all that is required to re-enter one of the primary literary landscapes of the Twentieth Century.

His work has spawned so much, including the films (he loved Cronenberg’s Crash, apparently, but Jonathan Weiss’ necessarily strange adaptation of The Atrocity Exhibition is well worth seeking out as well). Ballardian remains an exemplar of what internet-enabled criticism can achieve, a network of philosophy and exposition. Iain Sinclair was a natural choice to lead the tributes over the last weekend, as his work—pressing beneath the skin, obsessing over architecture, sparking one-word ejaculations—marks him out as one of Ballard’s closest followers. Appropriate too, as it was with Sinclair, at the Barbican around the publication of London Orbital, and at the South Bank, that I strained to catch a glimpse of the Sage of Shepperton. It never happened; too late, illness always intervened. A cardboard cutout of Ballard sat between Sinclair and Chris Petit, looking, in his monochromatic gauntness and in my memory, more like Burroughs than himself.

For good obituaries, you’d do well to read the tributes accumulating at Ballardian (notably from Michael Moorcock, and Bookkake contributor Supervert), and this piece by V. Vale (publisher of Re/Search, which I’ve been meaning to write about for some time). And then of course, it’s time to start re-reading all the books.

BBC film from 1971. Directed by Harley Cokliss and written by J.G. Ballard.

Posted April 28, 2009 | Comments Off on The future is something with a fin on it: J.G. Ballard RIP.

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