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Roger Ballen was Born 1950 in New York City. Since the 1970s he lives and works in South Africa.Read More
Considered one of the most original image-makers of the twenty-first century, American-born photographer Roger Ballen has lived and worked in South Africa for four decades. His latest work, Asylum of the Birds, is set within the confines of a makeshift house on the outskirts of Johannesburg, a place inhabited by individuals at the absolute margins of society. In this anarchic place, the human and animal inhabitants collaborate as Ballen’s cast in an on going series of quasi-directed performances. As we enter Ballen’s layered netherworld the images simultaneously repel and compel our gaze and transport us to an even darker dream world, that of the fears within our own imagination. The omnipresent birds, both alive and dead, signal a foreboding reminiscent of Hitchcock, while simultaneously suggesting hope and freedom. While the word ‘asylum’ could be defined a place of insanity, it also suggests refuge and persists in our mind as a metaphor for redemption. Says Ballen of his work; 'My purpose in taking photographs over the past forty years has ultimately been about defining myself. It has been fundamentally a psychological and existential journey.'
The photographer studied psychology at the University of California, and later his PhD at the Colorado School of Mines, specialising in Mineral Economics. Ballen was originally drawn to South Africa to work as a geologist, but his enthusiasm for photography strengthened, and he has been taking images there for nearly fifty years.
Ballen's underworld has recently become the setting of a music video by the South African group Die Antwoord entitled I Fink U Freeky (with forty-eight million hits online). The exhibition also presents a short video documentary (which received over forty-thousand hits the week of its debut) of Ballen at work. The film will be on view in the exhibition. A new monograph of the same from Thames & Hudson is available for purchase at the gallery. Ballen's previous award-winning books include Platteland (1994), Outland (2001), Shadow Chamber (2005), and Boarding House (2009). A few rare copies of Outland and Shadow Chamber are also available for purchase at the gallery.
Ballen has had over 50 exhibitions worldwide, and his work is being collected by some 40 museums worldwide, including the Folkwang, Essen, LACMA, Los Angeles, Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Stedelijk, Amsterdam, Victoria and Albert, London, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the MoMA, New York, just to name a few.
Text courtesy Christophe Guye Galerie.
For nearly 40 years Roger Ballen has been an outsider, operating on the margins with his fellow art brut artists. Now a new book and exhibition offer a glimpse inside the workings and processes of his dark mind, a world, he says, that, 'reveals itself through itself'
You were born in New York and later moved to and lived in South Africa for many years, you have shot a great deal of images of white people who live in South Africa, what is your original creative thought? How does this migration, geo-cultural difference influence your creation? Roger Ballen: I really took a lot of pictures of African white...
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