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Michelle Lord | Future Ruins

December 11, 2009

Inspired on the novel The Ultimate Cityby JG Ballard, written in 1976, the artist and photographer Michelle Lord had worked on this project called Future Ruins. The project is divided in five different parts and aims to explore the impact of the modern world upon the urban built environment and its inhabitants, creating images of cityscapes increasingly transformed by science, technology and design.

For the artist statements:

“Inspired by author J G Ballard’s literary visions of modernist architectural design and his prophetic views on the technological demise of the urban environment; Future Ruins is a photographic critique of the urban planning of the 1970’s and Ballard’s novels of the same period.”

Birmingham offers an interesting working example of urban regeneration as it strives to build a new city image. It is the largest of the British Core Cities and the second most populous British city. Positioned between architectural decline and growth; being a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution in England, a fact which led to Birmingham being known as “the workshop of the world” or the “city of a thousand trades” and that makes the landscape of the city a collage of old and new, revealing stark contrasts of industrial and post-war brutalism with ground breaking structures like the Selfridges building. According to Nic Clear in an interview by Simon Sellars: ‘Within academia and architectural criticism, if such a thing still exists, there is a general disdain for “popular” fiction – writing on, and about, architecture is still very elitist – and I have met quite a bit of resistance when discussing Ballard as a serious subject.’

“The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam.” – J G Ballard

As Lord says about her source of inspiration, Ballard often described the beckoning future of the modern metropolis in terms of the utopian ideology of Brutalist concrete architecture. Brutalism was an architectural movement originally associated with social idealism that is now criticised for disregarding the communal, historic and surrounding built environment. Set against a backdrop of Birmingham’s few remaining concrete structures such as Spaghetti Junction, Central Library and New Street Station signal box; Future Ruins aims to highlight the temporality of our landscape, particularly at a time when Birmingham has embarked on a process of regeneration in order to redefine itself.

“What our children have to fear is not the cars on the highways of tomorrow but our own pleasure in calculating the most elegant parameters of their deaths.” – J G Ballard

Maybe all these kind of dystopics art works, as Ballard’s novels, projects like Slave City by Atelier Van Lieshout or films like Code 46 or The Age of Stupid are just there to make us think about the present we have and the future we want.

“The marriage of reason and nightmare which has dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the specters of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy.” -J G Ballard

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