Work has started on a Black Plaque for Robert Vaughan, anti-hero of JG Ballard's Crash. When English Heretic started one of its intentions was to commemorate psychopaths. Of course, the aim was never so obvious as to glorify serial killers in the tired tradition of industrial culture, but to draw attention to the archetype of the psychopath, the immutable weird of the nightmare. There is no better example in modern fiction than Ballard's hoodlum scientist, fallen TV angel of the M4 corridor.
As part of the project a sister blog has been set up:
The Hoodlum Scientist's Fieldbook
Though the idea of a Black Plaque for Vaughan was seeded at the beginning of English Heretic, much of the recent impetus and structure for the research has been inspired by the wonderful Ballard related blogs and articles constructed by Simon Sellars at Ballardian, Nina at Infinite Thought, and Owen at Sit Down Man, you're a bloody tragedy.
The first location research centres around Northolt in Middlesex, which Ballard's genius somehow manages to transform into the erotic suburb of a Paul Delvaux painting. The following entry is a personal rendering of Northolt through English Heretic's Ubu absurd lens...the usual obsessions: toponymic conspiracy; Osirian descent, urban Fulcanellian hermeticism...
In carrying out these researches I would love to hear and have join in, collaborators who share an interest and passion for Ballard. The project is a conscious homage to the great man himself.
The BP garage on the High Street of Northolt Village stands opposite the church. Much like the Christian churches that usurped the ground of older pagan sites of worship, it's refreshing to see the secular solar cult of Oil taking over. It is Sunday and inevitably the church is empty and there are queues at the diesel fonts. The BP motif strangely invokes Sol Invictus.
British Petroleum changed its name to BP in 2000, and introduced a new corporate slogan: “Beyond Petroleum”. It replaced its “Green Shield” logo with the helios symbol, a green and yellow sunflower pattern. These changes were intended to highlight the company’s interest in alternative and environmentally friendly fuels...
Of course the cult of Sol Invictus is associated with the sun god Heliogabalus who worshipped the black stone at Emesa a clear indication as to the corporation's carboniferous idolatry.
I would suggest the real intention of the new logo was to subliminally replace the cross in the subconscious mind of its devotees, that this is the place to seek sanctuary. Secondly given the martial nature of Sol Invictus, it was also to continue but render more subtle the link between war and oil. The shield was too crude a symbol of its true modus operandum.
I am fairly sure that when the rapture does descend, the populace will be flocking to the day-glo BP cathedral for their last hope of redemption rather than to the drab church across the road with its tired fears and proverbs.
Police Head Quarters: Hazardous Waters
“At the Northolt police pound I showed my pass to the guard, custodian of this museum of wrecks. I hesitated there, like a husband collecting his wife from the depot of a strange and perverse dream. Some twenty or so crashed vehicles were parked in the sunlight against the rear wall of an abandoned cinema. At the far end of the asphalt yard was a truck whose entire driving cabin had been crushed, as if the dimensions of space had abruptly contracted around the body of the driver”. - JG Ballard, Crash, Chapter 7
Metropolitan Police, Working for a safer London - CLOSED: the ultimate redundant gesture of our fearless crime fighters. Interestingly, on the High Street outside the tube entrance, there are two large banners attached to the street lamps: one warning “knives ruin lives” and the other warning potential burglars of the use of smart water as a detection tool. Now that the police station is abandoned, the car park inside would make an excellent venue for an outside concert. Savage Republic I recall played a gig in such a space.
In Crash, the police pound backs onto a derelict cinema. There is no sign of the cinema, merely wasteland. Perhaps in juxtaposing the station with the screen, Ballard was prophetically realising that crime fighting would be eventually relegated to a series of ad campaigns.
There is something rather Dr. Who like about the abandoned police station made all the more pronounced by the Chemical Hazard sign on the door. What alien toxin forced the constabulary to flee their headquarters at Northolt? Perhaps the smart water gained an intelligence of its own, replicated with the RNA of its host thief to create a super breed of luminous villain, impregnable to the vain pursuits of the hapless Bobbies of Northolt Police Station.
The Gospel According To David Francis, Used Car Salesman
Echoing Will Self’s platitudinous novel ‘Dave’, there is something quite salvational about the used car lot next to the police station. In previewing Northolt on Google Earth prior to visiting the place I had assumed the car lot was the police pound. Perhaps in a way it is. Dave’s tacky ads seem blissfully in tune with the current Kali-Yuga of the Credit Crunch. “Having difficulty with Finance” has the ring of “Jesus Saves” posters you get outside urban churches.
The cars in the afternoon light look that school of dead dolphins duped into Falmouth bay by Naval sonar or so the conspiracy went.
The British Cerberus
“We left the overpass and moved down a concrete road through west Northolt, a residential suburb of the airport. Single-storey houses stood in small gardens separated by wire fences. The area was inhabited by junior airline personnel, car-park attendants, waitresses and ex-stewardesses. Many of them were shift-workers, sleeping through the afternoon and evening, and the windows were curtained as we wheeled through the empty streets.” - JGB Crash, Chapter 9.
In framing this apparently monumentally dull photograph I wanted to slightly over saturate the scene reminiscent of the bleeding colours of a Parrian postcard. Ballard in Crash talks about the residents of Northolt being mainly Heathrow airport staff, so I thought it to appropriate to capture their habitat. Clearly something has escaped the quarantine of good taste and taken guard outside. A British Cerberus complete with dog collar, a Gothic monstrosity, curiously xenophobic, I was reticent about getting to close to it for fear its owner might bite.
Subway Of Calvary
At the entrance to the subway, a white shroud lays discarded or perhaps waiting a future occupant. I couldn't tell whether it was a shell suit or a forensic officer’s apron. Whatever the material, though I felt I should take it as an offering, a uniform for future ritual use, I also felt too frightened to touch it: as if it was impregnated with supernatural vril, that would transform me into a messiah of the underpass or more worryingly the pharmakos of an urban Masonic sacrifice. In true Shelby-Downard fashion the proximity of railway line and the police station combine to create that world-as-chessboard paranoia of Kill King 33.
Of the colour white Fulcanelli writes:
“The bienheureux (the blessed ones) – those who have been reborn and washed in the blood of the lamb – are always represented with white garments.. In Egypt, the shades were similarly dressed in white. Ptah, the Regenerator, was also clad in white, in order to show the new birth of the Pure Ones or the White Ones. The Cathars, a sect to which the Bianchi of Florence belonged, were the Pure Ones...”
It's interesting to see how people now scoff at white tracksuits as the garments of the underclass... but I think of Joseph and Mary and Godard's depiction of the virgin working part time at a gas station in “Je Vous Salue Marie”, a truly Ballardian rendering of that post-modern stele: the petrol pump.
The garages remind me of the terraced streets of tombs at Montmartre Cemetery. This is where I expect the souls of the inhabitants of Northolt reside. In fact these aren’t really garages but elaborate spirit traps, demon bowls, and canari. What amorphous and autopsied Roswellian specimens are contained within? I now suspect the Turin shroud at the entrance to the subway to be the shed skin of one such inhabitant: the fluorescent and criminal mutation that escaped Quatermass style from the Police Headquarters.