Roger Ballen - Die Antwoord

Exhibition: 4 September to 5 October, 2013

Roger Ballen

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Roger Ballen is one of the most highly acclaimed photographic artists working today and he is a hit on YouTube. His collaboration with South African rap-rave crew Die Antwoord on the music video for their track ‘I Fink U Freeky’ has mesmerised fan and film audiences alike. Since its release in 2012, the video has clocked up over 30 million viewings on YouTube, and has won two major accolades—Best Music Video Award at the International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography, Plus Camerimage, and the Music Video Grand Prix Award at the Curtas Vila do Conde International Film Festival.

Together they created “a parallel reality”, Ballen says. A reality we also encounter in a series of dark and quirky staged photographs taken by Ballen, which interweave Die Antwoord’s performances with his art installations. STILLS is thrilled to be bringing to Australian audiences a large selection of these striking, powerful and playful images as fine art archival prints, following their compilation in a hard-back publication due for release in September 2013.

In Ballen’s previous series, Boarding House, Shadow Chamber and Outland, he photographed people on the fringes of South African society, gaining international recognition for a distinctive aesthetic that makes his photographs instantly recognisable. These images are no exception. They feature the same visual language, identified by grime-smeared walls covered in hand-scrawled faces and unidentifiable motifs, nonconformist characters with co-habiting vermin, and scratchy lines in an unforgiving monochrome, all amid compositions that defy depth and, often, comprehension.

While Die Antwoord are revered for their futuristic and counter-cultural influences, and Ballen is renowned for his confronting and surreal compositions, what underscores the success of this creative mix may be due to finding common territory in unconventional places. Both create worlds that teeter between the real and the imaginary, like documentary fictions. Their work evokes a psychological realm while drawing inspiration from the everyday and socially undervalued. Rich with contradiction they beguile and disturb us with equal measure.

This meeting of eccentric minds and artistic disciplines results in work that extends and intensifies the other’s respective talents and breaks new creative ground, "It’s not just about photography, it’s not about music, it’s not about staging” Ballen explains, “it’s about [using] all those things to create a much larger whole, a much greater presence.”

Roger Ballen has exhibited and is in the collections of the some of the world’s most prestigious art institutions. These include the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the V&A Museum, London, Tate Britain, London, and Smithsonian, South Africa. Ballen has featured in numerous international exhibitions including the 17th Biennale of Sydney, and in the State Museum of Russia, Bibliotheque National, Paris, 2006, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, 2007 and La Triennale di Milano, 2009. Ballen was born in New York in 1950 and lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa.