Words in Pictures: J G Ballard, Part Two

A 1971 short film brings the ideas behind "Crash" to eerie life.

In the week that J G Ballard's archives were presented to the British Library, Words in Pictures takes a look at a clip of Harvey Cokliss' 1971 short film Crash!

Based on fragments of Ballard's "You, Me and the Continuum" (1966), part of his collection Atrocity Exhibition and an anticipation of his notorious 1973 novel Crash, the film is a series of narrated musings on the nature and significance of the "huge metalised dream" - the contemporary automobile.

The key image of the twentieth century is the motor car - it sums up everything.

Cokliss sets an on-screen Ballard, the impassive driver and later the observer of a series of brutal test crashes, against a disturbing electronic soundtrack, adding the visual idee fixe of a silent crash victim (Gabrielle Drake) to further ramp up the tension.

A precursor to Ballard's full-scale novel and an alternative to Cronenberg's 1996 film, Crash! offers a fascinating glimpse into Ballard's part-formed thoughts on a subject that would later crystallise so provocatively.


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Brexit… Leg-sit

A new poem by Jo-Ella Sarich. 

Forgot Brexit. An ostrich just walked into the room. Actually,
forget ostriches too. Armadillos also have legs, and shoulder plates
like a Kardashian.  Then I walked in, the other version of me, the one
with legs like wilding pines, when all of them

are the lumberjacks. Forget forests. Carbon sinks are down
this month; Switzerland is the neutral territory
that carved out an island for itself. My body
is the battleground you sketch. My body is
the greenfield development, and you
are the heavy earthmoving equipment. Forget
the artillery in the hills
and the rooftops opening up like nesting boxes. Forget about

the arms race. Cheekbones are the new upper arms
since Michelle lost out to Melania. My cheekbones
are the Horsehead Nebula and you are the Russians
at warp speed. Race you to the finish. North Korea

will go away if you stop thinking
about it. South Korea will, too. Stop thinking
about my sternum. Stop thinking about
the intricacy of my mitochondria. Thigh gaps
are the new wage gaps, and mine is like
the space between the redwood stand
and the plane headed for the mountains. Look,

I’ve pulled up a presentation
with seven different eschatologies
you might like to try. Forget that my arms
are the yellow tape around the heritage tree. Forget
about my exoskeleton. Forget
that the hermit crab
has no shell of its own. Forget that the crab ever
walked sideways into the room.
Pay attention, people.

Jo-Ella Sarich is a New Zealand-based lawyer and poet. Her poems have appeared in the Galway Review and the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017.

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear