Car Symbolism

“[The] Institute for Research in Art & Technology encouraged cross-disciplinary work in cinema, video, print, theatre, music, photography and cybernetics. The gallery space was officially opened on 4 October 1969 and featured a poetry writing machine attached to a nearby teleprinter and another computer in Great Portland Street. The gallery shared the ground floor of the building with a small cinema and in the weeks leading up to Ballard’s exhibition the New Arts Lab’s programme included screenings of Andy Warhol’s films and an exhibition by Ian Breakwell and John Hilliard.

As advertised in Art & Artists, ‘Jim Ballard: Crashed Cars‘ took place at the gallery between 4-28 April 1970. The cars – a Pontiac, an Austin Cambridge A60 and a Mini – were hired from Charles Symmonds’s knacker’s yard, Motor Crash Repairs. ‘They don’t appeal to me as art,’ Symmonds told the Sunday Times. ‘I detest cars. But maybe it’s a good idea to show crashed cars. It’s frightening.’ Ballard’s choice of car was far from accidental. The Pontiac was a model from the mid-fifties, and thus represented a particularly baroque phase in American car styling, while the Mini symbolised the fun-loving mobility of the swinging sixties. The sober and conservative saloon, the A60, stood for the Mini’s exact antithesis. All however, through the catastrophe of the car crash, were now in a sense equivalent; smashed and levelled to the raw material of their crushed metal, broken glass, and stained upholstery…”

Text: Simon Ford, A Psychopathic Hymn: J.G. Ballard’s ‘Crashed Cars’ Exhibition of


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