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The assassination of JFK looms over The Atrocity Exhibition, and it should be no secret that the book borrows its inspiration from Kennedy’s death—possibly as a way to better understand or inhabit the tragedy. Most striking, and probably unsurprising, is the end “THE ASSASSINATION OF JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY CONSIDERED AS A DOWNHILL MOTOR RACE,” a pseudo-serious account of the assassination. Here, Ballard assimilates the assassination to Alfred Jarry’s ‘The Crucifixion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race,” a race narrative which he says will “give us a useful lead.” From an investigative lens, much about the assassination is obfuscated. Many still wonder if Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, contrary to the reports of the Warren Commission. Rendering the assassination as a race proves to be interesting commentary as Ballard himself believed the image of the automobile to be reflective of culture–that is, the assassination, in a sense, is a type of crash. As we discussed in class, Ballard was allured by the car’s advertising, marketing, technology, design, mass production, and the collective experience of moving together. Through the crash (i.e. destruction) of these symbols, he attempts to showcase the tension of our unconscious preoccupations and its concealed sexuality, the relationship between violence and sex. In The Atrocity Exhibition, he demonstrates how he sees the mass media landscape infiltrate and split our psyches. The assassination of Kennedy, was a big, evocative crash, and its image still persists. The central ideas of the piece come full circle when we consider Ballard’s question in the annotations for CHAPTER TEN: “What actually happens on the level of our unconscious minds when, within minutes on the same TV screen, a prime minister is assassinated, an actress makes love, an injured child is carried from a car crash?”

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