Skip to content
BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access November 1, 2019

Making The Drowned World Manifest: Re-reading Ballard’s Novel Through Art

  • Tracey Clement EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Cultural Studies


In 1970, J.G. Ballard used a London gallery as a laboratory in which to test ideas he was toying with, ideas that eventually found their way into his 1973 novel, Crash. Ballard found that art and literature were a fecund combination. Considering the richness of his imagery and the complexity of his ideas, it is not surprising that Ballard’s works have gone on to inspire artistic responses. Perhaps the most well known of these is Robert Smithson’s masterpiece, Spiral Jetty, 1970. However, most works inspired by Ballard’s writing respond to vague notions of things Ballardian rather than to a particular novel or short story. In this essay I will focus specifically on recent contemporary Australian artworks which were made in direct response to Ballard’s 1962 novel, The Drowned World, for a 2015 exhibition I initiated and coordinated titled Mapping The Drowned World. Using my own artworks as examples, as well as work made by fellow Australian artists Roy Ananda, Jon Cattapan and Janet Tavener, I will demonstrate that art and Ballard’s literature continue to make a great synergistic team: together they produce more than the sum of their parts.

Works Cited

Ballard, J.G. Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton an Autobiography. Harper Perennial, 2008.Search in Google Scholar

Ballard, J.G. The Drowned World. Berkley Medallion Books, 1962.Search in Google Scholar

Card, Claudia. The Atrocity Paradigm: A Theory of Evil. Oxford University Press, 2002.10.1093/0195145089.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Clark, Andy. Mindware: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Cognitive Science. Oxford University press, 2001.Search in Google Scholar

Clark, Andy. Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension. Oxford University Press, 2008.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195333213.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Clement, Tracey, editor Mapping the Drowned World: Six Artists Respond to J G Ballard’s Novel the Drowned World. Sydney College of the Arts, 2015.Search in Google Scholar

Clement, Tracey, editor. “Finding a Hidden Heroine in J. G. Ballard’s Sci-Fi Novel, The Drowned World.” POPCAANZ, 2016. in Google Scholar

Clement, Tracey, editor. “Soon it would be too hot: Revisiting The Drowned World,” Journal of Asia Pacific Pop Culture, vol. 3, no. 1, 2018.10.5325/jasiapacipopcult.3.1.0026Search in Google Scholar

Dillon, Brian, editor Ruins. Whitechapel Gallery, 2011.Search in Google Scholar

Dillon, Brian, editor. Ruin Lust: Artist’s Fascination with Ruins, from Turner to the Present Day. Tate Publishing, 2014.Search in Google Scholar

Finkelstein, Haim. “Deserts of Vast Eternity: J.G. Ballard and Robert Smithson.” Foundation, vol. 39, 1987, pp. 50-62.Search in Google Scholar

Fisher, Walter R. “Narration as a Human Communication Paradigm: The Case of Public Moral Argument.” Communication Monographs vol. 51 no. 1, 1984, pp. 1-22.10.1080/03637758409390180Search in Google Scholar

Folin, Marco, and Monica Preti, eds. Wounded Cities: The Representation of Urban Disasters in European Art (14th-20th Centuries). Brill, 2015.10.1163/9789004300682Search in Google Scholar

Frost, Andrew. “Cosmic Sentinels and Spiral Jetties: J.G. Ballard, Robert Smithson & Tacita Dean.” Ballardian, 2013. in Google Scholar

Goddard, James, and David Pringle, eds. J.G. Ballard: The First Twenty Years. Bran’s Head Books Ltd, 1976.Search in Google Scholar

Goodman, John, editor Diderot on Art: Volume Ii: The Salon of 1767. Yale University Press, 1995.Search in Google Scholar

Graham, Gordon. Philosophy of the Arts: An Introduction to Aesthetics. Routledge, 1997.Search in Google Scholar

Heise, Ursula K. Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global. Oxford University Press, 2008.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195335637.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Heisenberg, Werner. Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science. Allen & Unwin, 1958.Search in Google Scholar

Jameson, Fredric. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. Verso, 2007.Search in Google Scholar

Kermode, Frank. The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction. Oxford University Press, 2000.Search in Google Scholar

Lacoste, Yves. “An Illustration of Geographical Warfare: Bombing of the Dikes on the Red River, North Vietnam.” Antipode, vol. 5, no. 2, 1973, pp. 1-13.10.1111/j.1467-8330.1973.tb00502.xSearch in Google Scholar

Luckhurst, Roger. The Angle between Two Walls: The Fiction of J.G. Ballard. Liverpool University Press, 1997.Search in Google Scholar

Morton, Timothy. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. University of Minnesota Press, 2013.Search in Google Scholar

Pringle, David. Earth Is the Alien Planet: J. G. Ballard’s Four-Dimensional Nightmare. Borgo Press, 1979.Search in Google Scholar

Puff, Helmut. “Ruins as Models: Displaying Destruction in Postwar Germany.” Ruins of Modernity, edited by Julia Hell and Andreas Schönle. Duke University Press, 2010, pp. 253-69.10.2307/j.ctv11cw4pf.20Search in Google Scholar

Shapiro, Lawrence A. “Embodied Cognition.” The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science. Eds. Margolis, Eric, Samuels Richard and P. Stich Stephen. Oxford Handbooks Online, 2012, pp.118-44. 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195309799.013.000610.1093/oxfordhb/9780195309799.013.0006Search in Google Scholar

Simmel, Georg. “The Ruin.” Translated by David Kettler. Georg Simmel, 1858-1918: A Collection of Essays with Translations and a Bibliography, edited by Kurt H. Wolff. The Ohio State University Press, 1959, pp. 259-66.Search in Google Scholar

Truman, Harry S. “White House Press Release on Hiroshima: Statement by the President of the United States.” Atomic Archive: National Science Digital Library 1945. in Google Scholar

Vale, V., and David Pringle, eds. J. G. Ballard. V. Vale, 1984.Search in Google Scholar

Weart, Spencer R. The Rise of Nuclear Fear. Harvard University Press, 2012.10.4159/harvard.9780674065062Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2019-04-24
Accepted: 2019-09-25
Published Online: 2019-11-01
Published in Print: 2019-01-01

© 2019 Tracey Clement, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

Downloaded on 26.3.2023 from
Scroll Up Arrow