“The Atrocity Exhibition” is a group show dedicated to the sensibilities of the late J.G. Ballard. The eponymous book of stories from 1969 is a chimerical collage of writings that laid the conceptual groundwork for a number of his subsequent novels. The fractal structure of the text, what Ballard referred to as “condensed novels”, acts as a template for this exhibition in an attempt to translate the author’s acute understanding of the human condition.
English artist Desmond Paul Henry’s drawings were made with the Analogue Bombsight Computer, a device used to anticipate where bomb drops would accurately cause the most damage. Made contemporaneously to Ballard’s early writings, Henry’s unique works on paper are widely considered to be the earliest examples of computer art as we know it and evoke a technological imaginary that transcends the touch of the human hand. Nearby, the obsessive and illogical sketches of Berlin-based artist Benja Sachau perfect all the possible failings of the gesture complete with faulty intuition even though the actions are humanized by a machine of the artist’s own design. The mechanics of the grotesque reach a baroque terribilia in Daniel Baker’s “Bouquet looking glass” (2007), a painting that occupies an awkward space between the copy and the original.
The counter-terrorism facility of Playas, New Mexico, a somewhat re-inhabited ghost town documented extensively by artist Steve Rowell, shows how, according to the artist, “the war on terror is redefining the American pastoral in an unexpected way.” Homes with a fresh patina of abandon are wired in order to monitor the training exercises that help strategize what to do when things fall apart. From an interior view, the series “Porn Photos” by artists Anetta Mona Chişa & Lucia Tkáčová penetrates how quickly the clichés of domestic innocence and daily activities devolve into rituals less subtle.
Ignacio Uriarte’s video “Immer grösser und weniger, immer kleiner und mehr” (2006) is a dilating accretion into temporal and spatial dimensions, abstracting perceptions to a point of collapse before beginning again. This metronomic tension is furthered with “Macroscopico e domestico…” (2008), a continuation of artist Arcangelo Sassolino’s anthropomorphic sculptures and their often autocannabalistic tendencies. And finally, how does one simulate irreversible trauma without the baggage of pain and suffering? According to the shifting protagonist of Ballard’s book, “Massive cerebral damage and abdominal bleeding in automobile accidents could be imitated within half an hour, aided by the application of suitable colored resins.” Annika Larsson’s film “Blood” (2003) is a clinical dissection into the aesthetics of violence using a voluntary donor.
A nature symmetried unto itself and redoubled again onto us through simple reflection, an all-consuming catastrophe of kitsch, an android’s tear duct, a machine’s last breath, watching the clock forget, a lap of luxury gone sour, and/or a “geometry of murder”: combined each artists’ work tracks a morphologic loop of observation, hope, engagement, failure and destruction in a chicken or the egg of violence and entropy. Ballard’s legacy, in books both before and after The Atrocity Exhibition, has facilitated to better recognize qualities of civilization both unsavory and transcendent and at the same time determine what happens when things have reached their shelf life.
Images and text provided by Feinkost
- Cristiano Mangione at FEINKOST
- Luis Adelantado Inaugural Exhibition
- BASE(S) at Luis Adelantado Gallery