Saturday, April 24, 2010

from J.G Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition

The Conceptual Death
. By now these seminars had become a daily inquisition into Talbot's growing distress and uncertainty. A disturbing aspect was the conscious complicity of the class in his long anticipated breakdown. Dr. Nathan pause in the doorway of the lecture theatre, debating whether to end this unique but unsavoury experiment. The students waited as Talbot stared at the photographs of himself arranged in sequence on the blackboard, his attention distracted by the elegant but severe figure of Catherine Austin watching from the empty seats behind the film projector. The simulated newsreels of auto-crashes and Vietnam atrocities (an apt commentary on her own destructive sexuality) illustrated the scenario of World War III on which the students were ostensibly engaged. However, as Dr. Nathan realised its real focus lay elsewhere. An unexpecetd figure now dominated the climax of the scenario. Using the identity of their own lecturer the students had devised the first conceptual death.

Author's footnote to this section from Flamingo edition 2001:

Experiments often test the experimenter more than the subject. One rembers the old joke about the laboratory rat who said "I have that scientist trained, every time that I press this lever he gives me a pellet of food". For me, the most interesting aspect of the work of Masters and Johnson, collected in Human Sexual Response, was its effect upon themselves. How were their sex lives influenced what changes occured in their sexual freedoms and fantasies? In conversation they seemed almost neutered by these experiments. I suspect that the copulating volunteers were really training the good doctors to lose all interest in sex.

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