Ballard and the Visual Arts

Joanne Murray
J.G. Ballard and Early Independent Group Manifestations: Growth and Form (1951) and Parallel of Life and Art (1953)

20 Minutes


Ballard’s visit to and his admiration of the 1956 Independent Group related exhibition This is Tomorrow has been repeatedly referred to by Ballard in interviews. The sense of kinship Ballard perceived between the concerns set forth by the exhibition and his conception of science fiction is epitomised by his reverence for the Group’s rigorous analysis of 1950s mass culture and quotidian post-war life. Although the significance of this seminal exhibition can not be doubted, its consistent proclaimed status as the birth of pop art has often served to diminish the importance of earlier Independent Group precursors and manifestations that will form the subject of this paper.

Even though Ballard has not explicitly alluded to other Independent Group related exhibitions, his personal endorsement of Independent Group aesthetics has prompted this paper’s investigation into the potential relevance of the Group’s earlier exhibitions for the contextualisation of Ballard’s work within visual terms. The exhibitions Growth and Form (1951) and Parallel of Life and Art (1953) will therefore be discussed alongside Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition and The Voices of Time, with an emphasis upon the following themes: technology and new post-war artistic perceptions; non-hierarchical approaches to imagery and the ‘pin-board’ aesthetic; and finally, artistic form and installation.

Biographical note: Joanne Murray is currently in the second year of her PhD on JG Ballard and the new design, urban, and technological environments of the 1950s and 1960s at Birkbeck College, University of London.