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ExhibitionRoger Ballen Photography

Sep 4–Nov 1, 2015

Black and white photograph of two men, one sitting, one standing in a cemented area surrounded by some wire sculptures

Exhibition Overview

Roger Ballen is one of the most original image makers of the twenty-first century. This exhibition features recent black-and-white photographs from Asylum of the Birds (2014, Thames & Hudson) and I Fink U Freeky (2013, Prestel), photographed at a compound near Johannesburg. The location of the “asylum” remains a tightly guarded secret, but Ballen says its inhabitants include refugees, escaped prisoners and mental patients, drifters who come and go, and women with children who have no other place to stay. The images are orchestrated by Ballen with stage sets of graffiti, drawings, animals dead and alive, random scraps and found objects, and populated (sort of) by the human and avian inhabitants. The resulting images are intriguing and disturbing. The images from I Fink U Freeky were created in collaboration with—and feature—the South African punk rap group Die Antwoord.

Ballen is an American who has lived and worked in South Africa since the 1970s. The photographs on display continue his exploration of marginal communities, work that began when his job as a geologist took him out to the countryside and through small, isolated South African towns where he began photographing the people he found there.

The exhibition includes thirty-two photographs, two short films: Asylum of the Birds and Roger Ballen’s Outland directed by Ben Crossman, along with the music video I Fink U Freeky, with Die Antwoord. Die Antwoord describes themselves as a “fresh, futuristic, flame-throw-flow-freeking zef rap rave krew from the dark dangerous depths of Afrika.”

Programming & Financial Support

Generous support for this exhibition has been provided by the Chazen Museum of Art Council and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.