In the late 1950s J.G. Ballard applied for Arts Council funding for a series of billboards he had designed. He envisioned his experimental graphic collages as a series of large-scale public advertisements. Inspired by cubist and surrealist techniques, the four collages used text culled from scientific, chemical and engineering journals. Unfortunately the funding for the billboard project was rejected but Ballard re-purposed these collages as Project for a New Novel, a series of concrete poems published in New Worlds and Ambit in the early ’60s.
Here are the billboards as re-imagined in a Twenty-First Century urban context.
“On the right, exorcizing this memory, was a faded reproduction of a small painting he had clipped from a magazine, ‘Jours de Lenteur’ by Yves Tanguy. With its smooth, pebble-like objects, drained of all associations, suspended on a washed tidal floor, this painting had helped to free him from the tiresome repetitions of everyday life. The rounded milky forms were isolated on their ocean bed like the houseboat on the exposed bank of the river.” (11)
“For Ransom, the long journey up the river had been an expedition into his own future, into a world of volitional time where the images of the past were reflected free from the demands of memory and nostalgia, free even from the pressure of thirst and hunger.”(217)
“The light failed, and the air grew darker. The dust was dull and opaque, the crystals in its surface dead and clouded. An immense pall of darkness lay over the dunes, as if the whole of the exterior world were losing its existence.” (233)