Arts & Entertainment

‘Zones of Transition’: Micronationalism in the Work of J. G. Ballard

By Simon Sellars

Consider the spatial imagery in Ballard’s work. It is often predicated on a vocabulary of secession, a quasi-revolutionary zeal mediated not so much by hard rhetoric or ideology, but by a concealed network of colonies, anomalous regions and virtual city-states, often metaphoric in nature and analogous to the mind-state of Ballard’s deracinated characters. Examples are found across all phases of his career: the counterfeit spaceship in ‘Thirteen to Centaurus’ (1962); the abandoned New York in ‘The Ultimate City’ (1976); the gated community in Running Wild (1988); the ecotopia in Rushing to Paradise (1994); the overtly secessionist movement in Kingdom Come (2006). Ballard’s fabled vision of suburbia is similarly detached, defined as the psychological catchment area of the built environment: ‘In the suburbs you find uncentred lives. The normal civic structures are not there.’1 In addition to its psychosocial character, there is an anarcho-libertarian slant underpinning this spatial logic that is of particular interest, since its structure and complex interaction with the outside world strongly parallels the successes and failures of the real-world phenomenon of micronations: small, often ephemeral ’nations’, sometimes without land, but occasionally claiming the type of physical space Ballard describes. Micronations can be satirical or a component of an art project, but occasionally they can have political motives.


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