Saturday, January 26, 2008

Simon's Cyborg Film Fest

Over at Ballardian, the brilliant Simon Sellars has gotten The Man's publishers to sponsor a Festival of Home Movies filmed with mobile telephones. Think DIY surveillance footage, grainy recordations of the bleak landscape you traverse during your daily commute, satellite transmissions from the inner space of your mind. Now get to work...

"I’d like to organize a Festival of Home Movies! It could be wonderful — thousands of the things… You might find an odd genius, a Fellini or Godard of the home movie, living in some suburb. I’m sure it’s coming… Using modern electronics, home movie cameras and the like, one will begin to retreat into one’s own imagination. I welcome that…"

-- J.G. Ballard, quoted in ‘Interview with JGB by Graeme Revell’, RE/Search No. 8/9, 1984.

In 1984 J.G. Ballard called for a ‘Festival of Home Movies’ and 24 years on we’re happy to oblige: announcing our latest competition, to promote JGB’s forthcoming autobiography, Miracles of Life. Presented by and HarperCollins UK, the competition will utilise ‘modern electronics’ as specified above, of an especial type that Ballard with his prodigious clairvoyant powers came close to envisaging: the mobile phone (or cell phone, for our North American cousins).

As Ballard writes, the minor, continual, subliminal modifications we make to our bodies on a day-to-day basis add up to something else:

"a continuing authentication of [our] physical selves, a non-vocal gossip…that no kinaesthetic language, beyond those provided by the instructions on a deodorant or a lady-shaver, has yet been found to express."

-- J.G. Ballard, ‘The 60 Minute Zoom’, 1976.

Fully calibrated with the user’s personality, the mobile phone sticks to the skin like a third ear, a wearable, affordable prosthesis grafted to the cochlea. It’s as banal and as integrated as his deodorant or her personal lady-shaver, and yet it’s something else again, something even more Ballardian. Moral panics scream that the mobile phone turns people into self-enclosed zombie pods, that it turns its users inwards and against each other. Horror films (and Stephen King) are cashing in on its unseen malevolence. Scientists scream that it causes tumors and brain lesions; it’s the absinthe of technological instruments. And throughout it all, the core power of the thing grows apace as it becomes more and more like a super-powerful micro computer: able to not only receive, beam and transmit, but to record your every move in sound and vision, unnoticed, silent, cloaked.

It’s an unprecedented window into inner space.

+ Shoot a film using your mobile phone’s video function, no more than one minute in duration, and using no post-production or processing — the film must be shot entirely ‘in camera’.
+ The theme: anything at all to do with either one or both of the Collins English Dictionary definitions of ‘Ballardian’:

BALLARDIAN: (adj) 1. of James Graham Ballard (J.G. Ballard; born 1930), the British novelist, or his works. (2) resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard’s novels & stories, esp. dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes & the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.

+ Email your footage to ballardianfilm at ballardian dot com.
+ Closing date for submissions: February 11 February 20.

Entries will be judged by myself and John Rivers from the HarperCollins digital wing.

Selected entries will be hosted on the site and the winner will receive a copy of Miracles of Life along with the forthcoming HarperCollins reissues of Ballard’s Millennium People, The Drought, The Crystal World, The Drowned World and The Unlimited Dream Company.

My sincere thanks to HarperCollins for generously sponsoring this event, and to John Rivers for allowing it to happen. And as always, special thanks to J.G. Ballard for continual and ongoing inspiration.

"Everybody will be doing it, everybody will be living inside a TV studio. That’s what the domestic home aspires to these days; the home is going to be a TV studio. We’re all going to be starring in our own sit-coms, and they’ll be strange sit-coms, too, like the inside of our heads. That’s going to come, I’m absolutely sure of that, and it’ll really shake up everything…"

-- J.G. Ballard, quoted in ‘Interview with JGB by Andrea Juno and Vale’, RE/Search No. 8/9, 1984.

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