A Festival of Crashes


A Festival of Crashes

In an email conversation with a friend of mine, he asked me why I seemed to be so fascinated with crashes. He’d seen two recent pieces of mine, one an installation and one, worryingly, a children’s show that finished this way, though he equally could have included Motor Vehicle Sundown and Zilla! which are also about crashes of one sort or another. This is a slightly edited version of my response to him.

What I mean by living through a crash is that it seems to me the 20th century was very much about acceleration (of speed, of technology, of consumption, of wealth, of war etc.) and that perhaps now we are truly throwing off the last vestiges of that Enlightenment fantasy of a march of progress towards a better world, and instead acknowledging that the most likely outcome will actually be a crash, and perhaps with it the end of the world (or maybe the beginning of a new one). I think that with the present economic and environmental disasters and the increasingly unsustainable inequality between rich and poor we are beginning to see that crash actually hove into view, or at least the wall that we will soon be crashing into. At the moment I think I’m interested in ways in which that crash plays out in microcosm. I’m interested how the increasing pervasiveness of car crashes and plane crashes and disasters in the stories we tell is perhaps a rehearsal of a resistant way of thinking about growth and progress and acceleration. 

Or perhaps this is all fanciful (Western) generalisations. Perhaps this is just the most recent articulation of a centuries-old fascination with and even reliance upon the idea of the apocalypse, whether it be the Rapture, or the Aztec myth of the five suns, or of course the Mayans and 2012. Perhaps fixating on visions of annihilation and disaster is as instinctively human as believing in some kind of god or some kind of afterlife or some kind of love. In which case I suppose all of these crashes are actually much more about me. They are a way of exploring my own thinking. A way of wondering out loud why I find myself, like so many generations of people have before, continually drawn back almost comfortingly to these same visions of destruction; playing them over and over like a character in a JG Ballard novel.


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