Subliminal Fear

Applied Ballardianism: A Theory of Nothing

Excerpt from Applied Ballardianism: A Theory of Nothing

“Ballard once said, ‘One is aware of a sort of invisible marine world, of living below the water line. It works on you imaginatively after a while.’ When it worked on him, The Drowned World was the result.

Distracted by my remembrance of the future past, I detoured from the cities to travel through the provinces. The way Ballard described Shepperton’s sub-aquatic ambience reminded me so much of the Netherlands’ reclamation from the sea. In Zeeland, I explored the Delta Project, a vast storm-surge network designed to avoid a repeat of the 1953 North Sea Flood that overwhelmed Zeeland’s estuaries, submerging most of the land and killing 2,551 people.

Walking the N57 motorway perimeter between Noord Beveland and Schouwen-Duiveland, I photographed the surge barriers, artificial islands, moveable inlets and long, thin causeways that peppered the landscape, and sensed the psychological impact that ’living below the water line’ affords. It colours every aspect of Dutch life, which is riven with the subliminal fear of the embankments breaking.

In its desire to never be flooded again, the Netherlands is a country defined by infrastructure. Yet it is an infrastructure so vital, so present it is a form of architecture in itself, as if the internal organs of the nation have been inverted and reconfigured as an exoskeleton, an overt display of intestinal fortitude.”