JG Ballard: The Oracle of Shepperton


JG Ballard

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He has been credited with foreseeing the Regan administration, the arrival of gated communities, the architecture of Canary Wharf and widespread ecological disaster, but has the most prescient science fiction writer of the last three decades, also anticipated something else? Did JG Ballard also anticipate YouTube?

As far back as 1984, the Oracle of Shepperton was quoted in an interview as saying, “I’d like to organize a Festival of Home Movies! It could be wonderful — thousands of the things… You might find an odd genius, a Fellini or Godard of the home movie, living in some suburb. I’m sure it’s coming…” Indeed it was. In 1984 Ballard’s obsession with home movies might have seemed a little perverse and yet today watching them on YouTube is as routine as switching on the telly.

Ballard foresaw his festival as, “using modern electronics, home movie cameras and the like” and now a group of his devotees have instigated The 1st Ballardian Festival of home movies, a kind of belated realisation of the legendary author’s vision using nothing more than a video-enabled mobile phone. You can watch the entire collection at Ballardotube (“the net’s only dedicated Ballard channel”).Ballard has always revelled in the mundane underside of contemporary culture, once remarking that the Los Angeles Yellow Pages was “richer in human incident than all the novels of Balzac”.

The festival organisers admit that they have yet to find the Fellini of the very small screen, but its early days for the nascent festival. “Next year, who knows?”, reads a statement on the festival website. “Perhaps we’ll get entrants to simulate the filmed ratissages in Super-Cannes, or Bobby Crawford’s home porno movies in Cocaine Nights.”

*Please feel free to comment on a subsequent version of this article, over at the Guardian Arts Blog