Thursday, May 10, 2007

More thoughts on rampant pathologies, modernist ziggurats and countless rabbits

For those who are interested in J.G. Ballard (or for those of you interested in getting interested in him), some further reading...

Simon Sellars has a far more comprehensive run-down of last weekend's conference. As he points out, the venue was both entirely appropriate and subtly absurd:

I provided myself with other breaks by wandering around the UEA grounds and the ziggurat halls of residence, in particular, a series of pyramidical, mirrored structures ringing a lake and woodland, resembling nothing less than a Ballardian Concentration City. All around, the Brutalist architecture was superbly integrated into art and aesthetic, into functionalism and living, so much so that I thought a garbage skip was in fact an art work along the lines of the industrial sculptures dotted around the grounds. There was a swarm of rabbits darting around my legs, too, and hundreds, maybe thousands of interconnected rabbit holes – an animal kingdom version of the ziggurat – and one couldn’t help but compare these hyperactive beasts to the usual activities of university students after a few lagers.
Along with his keen observations (and excellent photos), Simon provides summaries and links galore on many of the topics covered.

Elsewhere online, Owen Hatherley also interprets the event (and helpfully provides a link to his own contribution), though in rather more discordant terms. He registered some kind of 'tussle' between rival gangs of literary theorists to decide who could 'claim' Ballard's writing as their own.

I didn't notice that, which is odd, since my ears are usually attuned to the dulcet sounds of intellectual bloodshed.

However, perhaps under what seemed on the surface to be a remarkable openness to other points of view and a refreshingly collegial atmosphere, I missed out on some subtle aggression amongst the intellectual tribes gathered.

Not only am I not as up-to-date on academic turf battles as perhaps I should be, I may have been distracted by all those charming bunnies.

I do, though, have a sneaking suspicion that the following might have been directed at me (or, more precisely, my own contribution), partly since I was one of the few to take a sociological perspective:

So there were some strange recuperations here, most memorably an attempt to read High Rise as some sort of sententious Family and Kinship in East London style anti-Modernist critique.

Well, you can't please everybody (and at least the attempt was memorable).

Having never had my intellectual efforts be reduced (or elevated, take your pick) to a recuperation before -- let alone a 'strange' one -- and since neither I nor Ballard (nor the sociology I was employing) could be even vaguely seen as 'anti-Modernist', I suspect I've been misunderstood.

I will certainly have to speak more loudly next time.

And use more diagrams.

Or perhaps this was directed at someone else...

[Update] It was directed at someone else. So, I feel better now.


owen hatherley said...

Wasn't you, don't worry: I was referring (rather meanly) to Paul Newland's paper on H-R.

Unknown said...

Ah, good, thanks very much, Owen, for the clarification.

For a moment there, I thought I had given another paper by mistake.

I hate when that happens.