Le théâtre de l’esprit
Photographs by Roger Ballen
Photograph by Roger Ballen
Gelatin silver print
40 x 40 cm
© Roger Ballen / Courtesy Karsten Greve
From July 1 to August 26, 2017, Flair Galerie presents Roger Ballen’s photographs, a special collection taken from 2000 to 2008. We glimpse “his visual statements” with mysterious accents, issuing from the series Shadow Chamber and Boarding House. To finesse Jean Cocteau’s quote, “Cinema is modern day writing, whose ink is light itself”, his ineffable photographs, a kind of atemporal writing, reinvent themselves under the eye and as per a mise en scène, behind the curtain, so to speak. They ground the turbulent history of our world, under the light of a hypothetical fire.
Deep dive into the intriguing universe of a most influential photographer from the debut of the 21st century, who is also presenting a new installation/Exposition, The House of the Ballenesque, as part of les Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles, this summer.
Masterfully, he shows a crashing world where bodies and broken dolls, rabbits hung on the wall, submerge the viewer thrown in a quizzical state, at first dazed, then captivated, and sometimes seduced. His photographs are considered enigmatic, mysterious or fanciful, without any intention to provoke on his part. Rather they would plant the pebble causing a stumble, the better to rebound. A moment’s pause imposes a state of awareness that will surprise the visitor. Roger Ballen, it would seem, intends to address here a regard rather than a simple vision, compelling it to contemplate of The Chamber of Enigma, for instance. While meditating on the prints, one drops into a metaphorical dimension, since the photographer intends to reflect on the psyche. Strewn with farmyard animals, often stuffed, represented in their relation with man, this space of transitory residence translates the confrontation of knowledge faced with different obstacles, such as displacement and denial. Detailing the locus of a primary experience permits the chaos to be lifted. The author’s subjective windows are not constructed to satisfy our egos. Surrounded by his rupestrian drawings, like an ancient geologist, he forbids you to close your eyes: it’s the price paid for being an uninhibited actor, anxious to learn. Once in the clear, the curious amateur is confronted with his desire to know (once acquired which bears, I dare hope, more than didactic value) to escape the sentiment of shame: faced with our contradictions, that of forgetting to protect each living being.
Therefore, a suspended effect plays within the fascination and the capture, within the strangeness of photography where the loss of realism—drawing/object—slides into a kind of condensation of heterogeneous materials: teddy bears, accessories, boxes, flowers, blackboards scribbled on…
Roger Ballen puts the extant image to the test, imparting an alternate perception of the world. To put into question the regard, in a society invaded by images, operates through devices arousing the drive of the witness. The perception of his photographs incites transformation in the ferryman, leaves room, for his thoughts to be expressed, comparable to the sparks glimpsed in a cavern, which might lead to a desire to act, with the same intensity.
Nathalie Gallon, 2017
Translated by Ilsa Carter and Pierre Guglielmina