Ballardian Visions

Le Reve-Henri Rousseau 1910
Le Reve-Henri Rousseau 1910

I have previously highlighted the influence of the Surrealists and Pop Artists upon J.G. Ballard, one of the few modern writers whose name is now an adjective; the word Ballardian conjures up visions of dystopian modernity, denuded man-made landscapes, the all-consuming nature of mass media, entropy, psychological withdrawal and anomie.

This most visual of writers has been a source of inspiration to artists in his turn, either directly referencing his work or by touching upon Ballardian themes.

I have taken liberties with this selection of ‘Ballardian’ imagery. Obviously Rousseau pre-dates The Drowned World and Warhol is directly stated by Ballard as an influence in The Atrocity Exhibition, but in some sense they seem to me Ballardian. The unconscious forms its own connections, there are no accidents and there are no coincidences.

Wittgenstein in New York-Eduardo Paolozzi-1965
Wittgenstein in New York-Eduardo Paolozzi-1965
Spiral Jetty-Robert Jetty 1973
Spiral Jetty-Robert Smithson 1973
JG-Still-Tachita Dean-2013
JG-helmut newtonTachita Dean-2013
Peter Klasen-The Fire Mouth 1965
Peter Klasen-The Fire Mouth 1965
Jackie-Andy Warhol 1964
Jackie-Andy Warhol 1964
Crashed Cars Exhibition-J.G Ballard 1970
Crashed Cars Exhibition-J.G Ballard 1970
Orange Car Crash-Andy Warhol 1963
Orange Car Crash-Andy Warhol 1963
Westway
Westway
Balfron Towers
Balfron Towers
Autopia 2-Dan Holdsworth
Autopia 2-Dan Holdsworth
Bergstrom Over Paris-Helmut Newton 1976
Bergstrom Over Paris-Helmut Newton 1976
T.V Murder, Cannes-Helmut Newton 1975
T.V Murder, Cannes-Helmut Newton 1975
Scenes From the Passion:The Hawthorne Tree-George Shaw 2001
Scenes From the Passion:The Hawthorne Tree-George Shaw 2001
Someone else's House-George Shaw 2018
Someone else’s House-George Shaw 2018
Peter Klasen-Blue Dream 2018
Peter Klasen-Blue Dream 2018

 

 

 

The Ideal City in the Mind’s Eye

Claude Nicolas Ledoux-Symbolic Representation of the auditorium of the Theatre at Besançon as seen through the pupil of one eye
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Symbolic representation of the auditorium of the Theatre at Besançon as seen through the pupil of one eye

The triumvirate of Utopian Neoclassical architects, Étienne-Louis Boullée, Jean-Jacques Lequeu and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux would have an major influence on Modern architecture in the 20th Century, as well as being hailed by the Surrealists as precursors, particularly Ledoux, who held notably progressive and egalitarian ideals for his time.

The Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans was conceived by Ledoux as the first phrase in the construction of an ideal city near the forest of Chaux. Ledoux thought that luxury shouldn’t just be confined to the nobility, it should also be used in the building of a workshop or a barn. The grandiose buildings were laid out in a circle, houses for workers were palatial and the forges had Doric columns. Unfortunately, but not altogether surprisingly Ledoux had to abandon work on the Royal Saltworks in 1778 before its final completion.

This didn’t deter Ledoux from envisaging ever more audacious and grandiose projects for his ideal city though. All public buildings such as the Pacifere (Temple of Concilation), the Oikema (House of Pleasure) were based on the theory of pure forms; pyramid, cube, sphere, cylinder. Statues would be erected for the sake of their effect on perspective or the casting of shadows.

In 1784 Ledoux was selected to design the Théâtre de Besançon. Among his radical and innovative designs was the introduction of seating for all patrons, (a right previously reserved for the nobility), and the screening of musicians in the orchestra pit.

Claude-Nicholas Ledoux-House of Supervisors Ideal City of Chaux
Claude-Nicholas Ledoux-House of Supervisors-Ideal City of Chaux
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Oikema
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Oikema (House of Pleasure)
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Oikema (House of Pleasure) Detail
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Oikema (House of Pleasure) Detail
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Farm Guards House
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Farm Guards House
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Chaux
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Chaux
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Pacifere
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Pacifere
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-house of Circles-Artists Studio
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-House of Circles-Artists Studio
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Maison de campagne ou Temple de la memoire
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Maison de campagne ou Temple de la memoire

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boullée’s Cenotaphs

Étienne-Louis Boullée-Cenotaph for Newton
Étienne-Louis Boullée-Cenotaph for Newton

In my post on the enigmatic French architect Jean-Jacques Lequeu I mentioned two other Utopian revolutionary Neoclassical architects whose visions remained largely on paper, Étienne-Louis Boullée and Claude-Nicholas Ledoux. As both architects produced interesting work in their own right and help situate Lequeu in the correct historical, intellectual and aesthetic context I felt follow up posts were necessary, starting with the originator of visionary architecture, Étienne-Louis Boullée.

Born in 1728, Boullée reacted against the frivolous decadence of the Rococo by returning to Classical forms (hence Neoclassicism), removing all unnecessary ornamentation and developing an abstract geometric style. Boullée stated that regularity, symmetry and variety were the golden rules of architecture. Another defining feature of Boullée’s projected work was it monumentalism, designed to invoke the sublime.

Boullée’s most famous work is the Cenotaph for Newton, a gargantuan monument consisting of a sphere taller than the Great Pyramid, to the idol of the Enlightenment. He also planned other Cenotaphs and tombs.

Boullée ink and wash drawings make great use of shadow, this combined with his potentially endless interior spaces reminds me of Piranesi’s influential imaginary prisons.

Peter Greenaway’s 1987 film The Belly of an Architect centers on an American architect staging an exhibition in Rome on Boullée. At one point a character remarks that Boullée’s work seems like a vision of Hell and I have to agree, though Boullée remains something of a hero of the Age of Reason.

Below are images of planned projects, including the Cenotaph for Newton, and two pieces of music from The Belly of an Architect.

Étienne-Louis Boullée-Interior of a Library
Étienne-Louis Boullée-Interior of a Library
Étienne-Louis Boullée-Temple
Étienne-Louis Boullée-Temple
Étienne-Louis Boullée-Split plan showing interior and from above
Étienne-Louis Boullée-Cenotaph for Newton Split plan showing interior and from above
Étienne-Louis Boullée-Cenotaph for Newton
Étienne-Louis Boullée-Cenotaph for Newton
Étienne-Louis Boullée-Cenotaph for Newton
Étienne-Louis Boullée-Cenotaph for Newton-Night Effect
Étienne-Louis Boullée-Cenotaph
Étienne-Louis Boullée-Cenotaph