david turgeon on Sat, 9 Feb 2002 05:23:02 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] vagueness, low science

>i dont know the english title of his 'sky scrapper'
>(i.g.h. in french)

_high rise_.  when i read that book, i loved it (it's my favourite JG 
ballard book) but i remained incredulous, & then one night i stumbled into 
an apartment building in state college, PA that had wet toilet paper & 
trash all over the corridors, just like what happens in the building 
halfway through the book.

likewise, i thought _twin peaks_ was a fantasy up until i spent a few days 
in bloomington-normal, IL.

it's a matter of fact that ballard was always fascinated with america.  but 
ballard is also all about simulation; his classic framework is to start 
with an incredible situation, & from there onwards make everything logical 
& realistic.  (this contrasts with kafka where the initial, incredible 
situation is more litterally forced onto the character which it gradually 
destroys up until the end of the story.)  one could read his novel _hello 
america_ just as such, a simulation with the american continent, here 
turned into an abstract hostile environment.

this way of writing is interesting not because the initial conditions are 
anything we know, but because everything that follows the first few pages 
is strictly plausible & justified, & we eventually recognize patterns from 
our own very real experience, here found again, perhaps in a different 
magnitude, still being "realistic" in a more global situation which we 
think unrealistic.  it's all in the difference of roles between the peg & 
the board game (which brings us to mandelbrot.)  the wet toilet paper & 
trash come to be seen as a vague pattern indicative of other patterns 
taking place elsewhere at equivalent magnitudes.  being an illustration, it 
does not tell, it only shows.  it's dangerous to draw strict conclusions on 
these observations, but one cannot help but learning from them.

but to end more like a movie review (as this is america we're talking 
about), a most interesting companion to _high rise_ is the david cronenberg 
film _shivers_ (1975) <http://us.imdb.com/Title?0073705> which also takes 
place in an isolated apartment building.  here, the inhabitants are 
contaminated not by their own abstract isolation, but by a more 
down-to-earth worm-kind-of-thing which renders everyone into a sex 
maniac.  not to be missed.

have a nice day
~ david

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