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The world of Roger Ballen between human psyche and the valors of "asphyxiating culture"

Exhibition reigns over the black and white world of the human psyche of Roger Ballen, from 7th September 2019 until 31st July 2020.

'The World According to Roger Ballen' combines not only straight photography, but also different techniques like drawings, painting, sculpture and collages.

5 Septembre 2019 - 10:10

Roger's Roger 2019 © Marguerite Rossouw
Roger's Roger 2019 © Marguerite Rossouw

Living and working in South Africa as a geologist brought him into the country-side equipped with his camera to explore the hidden world of small South African towns.

For over more than thirty years Roger Ballen, not only worked as a geologist, but also documented the strange world of the people who lived in remote towns of South Africa. The geologist-cum-photographer also knocked on doors taking stark black and white square format photographs of the people and the houses where they spent their lives. The interiors fascinated him with their distinctive collection of objects taking him on the path from social critique to a unique creation of metaphors for the inner mind. Later in 1994 he no longer worked in the countryside looking for subject matter, but found more inspiration closer to Johannesburg where he lived with his family.

Superman, 2018 © Roger Ballen
Superman, 2018 © Roger Ballen

Departure from traditional documentary photography

Departing from the tradition of documentary photography, Ballen developed what he termed 'documentary fiction' during the 1990s.
After 2000 the people he documented living on the margins of society in South Africa, became increasingly participants of the series Ballen created such as 'Outland' in 2000 and 'Shadow Chambers' in 2005 : they collaborated in the powerful psychodramas staged by the photographer.

Soon the line between fantasy and reality in his following series, 'Boarding House' (2009) and 'Asylum of the Birds' (2014) became even more blurred when he began to use drawings, painting, collage and sculptural techniques to create elaborate sets where people were replaced by photographs of individuals like stage props, often represented by parts of disembodied hands, feet and mouths, poking through walls or pieces of rag. Animals began appearing in his scenarios, unpredictable and disturbing, despite still being firmly rooted in his black and white photography transformed by a newly invented aesthetic. Later he even incorporated video work into his visual language describing the human condition and its creative potential.

Addict, 2014 © Roger Ballen
Addict, 2014 © Roger Ballen

Venturing into short films to complete his photographic series

Roger Ballen thus ventured into the world of short films to complete his photographic series with films such as 'I Fink You Freeky' created for the cult band 'Die Antwoord' in 2012, a You Tube hit. In 2017. Ballen exposed sculpture and installation at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris and created a spectacular installation 'House of the Ballenesque' for Les Rencontres d'Arles later that year, voted as one of the best exhibitions of 2017. In 2018, he created another installation 'Roger Ballen's Bazaar/Bizarre' in an abandoned shopping center for the Wiesbaden Biennale, in Germany.

Earlier in 2016, Ballen was inspired by hand-drawn carvings on blacked-out windows in an abandoned women's prison, for his series 'The Theatre of Apparitions'. He began to experiment with different spray paints on glass, which he used as a base for drawings or even removing the paint to let natural light appear resembling pre-historic cave-paintings where Ballen carved thoughts and emotions.

Disconnected, 2018 © Roger Ballen
Disconnected, 2018 © Roger Ballen

Halle Saint Pierre first retrospective of the extraordinary artist

Martine Lussardy, director of Halle Saint Pierre, the Parisian cultural center of art brut and unusual art, also curated the show 'Le Monde Selon Roger Ballen', a veritable retrospective of Ballen's work over several decades. Not only will Ballen unveil hitherto unseen installations, but he will also reveal his recent colour photography which he has never really presented before to the public. Reality and Fiction are constantly opposed in the work of this singular artist depicting the twisted vagaries of the human psyche.

Halle Saint Pierre
2, rue Ronsard - 75018 Paris

M° Anvers (2) / Abbesses (12)
Open every day
During the week from 11h to 18h
Saturdays from 11h to 19h
Sundays from 12 h to 18h
Temporary exhibitions : full entrance ticket 9€ - reduced ticket 7€
Library and café open to the public
Publication of the international review Raw Vision

Kunang Helmi-Picard
Fatma Kunang Helmi was born in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. Education in Switzerland, Australia and... En savoir plus sur cet auteur

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