‘After all, if she knows that everything
around her is unreal she’ll cease to fear it… Now I know that only the artist
can create an absolute reality’.
Goding in JG Ballard’s The Screen Game, 1962
In ‘Waiting for the Perfect View’ the assemblage of paintings, found objects, weathered carpets and Ostrich feather palm trees stand like some kind of postcard from the future. Everything natural has receded in this dystopic SF vision, artifice after a mass ecological extinction. Balanced between the old ideas of the end of the world and some kind of future hotch-potch imagination of what that once was the vignette appears as out of time as the rags and wreckage that Walter Benjamin has us believe to be the material of history in the making. This is the character of Beach Fatigue, Fiona Curran’s malady of images.
It’s no coincidence that the black and white aerial photograph from which Curran sources the road lined with palm trees appears to be of military origin. The survey of bikini atoll before and after the nuclear tests comes to mind. Within it the strange linguistic accident of nuclear tests and the raciest of beach-wear come together in one ultramodern hit that marks the end of history, the end of convention, and potentially, at least, the end of everything. Such an entropic aggregate of meaning would no doubt have been at the heart of JG Ballard’s fiction. Only the end would then come slowly creeping up like the Beach Fatigue that plagues the residents of his Vermillion Sands short stories, a pathology that corresponds to this affective entropy and dissipated energy of waiting for the inevitable tide to wash everything away into oblivion. Washed away unto a Pale Horizon perhaps - where we witness the plastic, artificial imaginary of a ‘natural’ sunset and animated waves trapped in a mechanical delirium loop.
There is a strange symbolism attached to other rags here, the broken down carpets mended, or perhaps ham-fistedly restored, in ill-suited threads and additional geometric patterns overlaying the mystical geometries of the carpets origins. Such a lack of care for the outcome suggests that these are more about the process, but not necessarily the artistic one, more the relieving of boredom while waiting for the inevitable.
Susan Buck-Morss might capture this mood well when she muses on Benjamin’s arcades and his angel of history that:
‘looks backward rather than forward, looks upon the destruction of material nature as it has actually taken place… [providing] a dialectical contrast to the futurist myth of historical progress (which can only be sustained by forgetting what has happened).’
Curran’s work in its meditative boredoms and sickly fatigue is as much about forgetting we are already in the slow decline of the world reminding us that catastrophes may manifest suddenly, but the forces that cause them to snap build slowly in the sands of time beneath our feet.
Kit Hammonds, 2013