Over 50 years ago, J.G. Ballard left us a mystery that was left unsolved until recently. J.G. Ballard was a novelist known for his dystopian fiction. His notable works include Empire of the Sun, High Rise, and Crash. The latter caused one critic to declare Ballard “beyond psychiatric help,” a comment that Ballard boasted about in later interviews.
In 1958, Ballard created a series of billboards called Project for a New Novel. Where ads are usually visually stimulating with a single memorable catch phrase, Ballard’s billboards were stripped of color and contained only chunks of text. The text included scientific journal excerpts, words, names, and phrases, all with an underlying narrative. The billboards were meant to be displayed across London. Without the bright colors and clear message, Ballard intended the viewer to use their imagination to discern the message for themselves. However, no one who has seen the billboards has been able to find their meanings, until now.
There is now a theory that the billboards are encrypted copies of Salvador Dali paintings. Salvador Dali was a Spanish surrealist painter. His most famous painting is perhaps The Persistence of Memory which more people remember for its image of melting clocks.
The Persistence of Memory is thought to mirror Ballard’s T-12 billboard. Both T-12 and The Persistence of Memory revolved around time. The prominent T-12 written in the middle of the billboard aligns with the silver melting watch in the middle of Dali’s painting. The words “Volcano Jungle” are found in the upper right corner, in the same region where there are cliffs. Lastly, the words “total bureau” line up with a geometric shape made out of the sand that resembles a desk.
Another billboard known as mr. f is mr. f refers to Ballard’s story of a man who regresses in age to that of a child over the course of the story, and is eventually absorbed back into his mother’s womb. This aligns with Dali’s painting Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of New Man. The painting shows a fully grown man emerging from an egg in the center of the painting, which lines up with Ballard’s mr.f is mr. f. In the bottom left of the billboard, there is text that signifies the two onlookers in Dali’s painting.
Had Ballard been able to secure funding for the project, many believe that it would have been one of his greatest achievements. Even with these two puzzles solved, there are more billboards and more mysteries that Ballard left for us.
Can you solve the mystery of Ballard’s billboards?
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Featured image via The Guardian
h/t The Guardian