Invitation card to the 'Crashed Cars' exhibition, by J. G. Ballard © J. G. Ballard. Reproduced by permission of the J. G. Ballard Estate. All rights reserved. You may not use this work for commercial purposes and the copyright holder must be credited.
This is an invitation card for ‘Crashed Cars’, the provocative and controversial exhibition staged by the novelist J G Ballard at London-based New Arts Laboratory in 1970.
Throughout the 1960s, the car had been celebrated in mainstream western culture. But the decade also saw a high incidence of car crashes, including several fatal accidents involving celebrities, which were widely and sensationally reported by the press.
For Ballard, the car was the key image of the 20th century. ‘Crashed Cars’ was therefore a platform to interrogate his developing ideas about the cultural significance of the automobile and the car crash.
From the exhibition’s month-long residence there emerged claims of visitors attacking and vandalising the three wrecked vehicles with wine, paint and urine, and Ballard recounted that on the opening night a woman, hired to act as a host, was sexually assaulted. It was a shockingly brutal manifestation of Ballard’s theory that the growing ‘technological landscape’ influenced human behaviour and social relationships.
This uninhibited, violent response urged Ballard to write his acclaimed novel, Crash. Crash was published three years later in 1973, an extreme exploration of sex, violence and technology that revolves around a group of people who share an erotic obsession with car crashes.
 See J G Ballard, quoted in V Vale, RE/Search: JG Ballard 8/9 (San Francisco, CA: RE/Search, 1984), p. 154.