Roger Ballen was born in New York, and has lived and worked in South Africa since the late 1970´s. His mother worked as a photo editor at Magnum Photo Agency, New York, and as a teenager Ballen befriended the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Davidson, and Elliott Erwitt.
Roger Ballen portrays a visual reality where human beings and animals are trapped in an incomprehensible and un-logical world. His photographs capture a tragic reality, free of ideals, purity and purpose in which the subjects’ actions seem senseless and absurd. The world reveals itself in photographs that are not only beautiful in their formal qualities, but also meaningful in content. Human comedy is a recurring presence in his images.
For many years Ballen worked as a geologist while documenting the small villages of rural South Africa and their isolated inhabitants. His distinctive style has evolved from a documentary approach to something more abstract, metaphoric and introspective. Over the years he developed his own private visual universe, combining photography, sculpture, films and installations. He describes his work as fundamentally psychological and existential; making art is an exercise in defining himself.
Mr Ballen’s work has been shown in institutions worldwide and is represented in many museum collections, such as Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; the Tate, London, England and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA. The exhibition ‘Roger Ballen´s Theater of the Absurd’ at Fotografiska, Stockholm was curated by PUG Oslo.
// The realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning. // Albert Camus
Theater of the Absurd
The overall premise of the exhibition is the notion of the Theater of the Absurd; A drama in which normal conventions and dramatic structure are ignored or modified in order to present life as irrational or meaningless.
Absurdity’s existence is based on the exclusion of prejudice or specificity, allowing it to be accessible to everyone. Even those who are not familiar with the world of Samuel Beckett and the meaningless dialogue between Estragon and Vladimir in the play Waiting for Godot, will recognize the absurdity in Roger Ballen’s photographs. Theater of the Absurdsheds light on the human condition and perhaps Ballen’s visual universe can alter the way one perceives both humanity and photography.
Theater of the Absurd contains 105 of Roger Ballen’s photographs taken from the 1970’s until 2013, including many that have never been exhibited before. The short film Asylum of the Birds presented in the exhibition space coincides with the publication of his latest book of the same title, and the installation is created with drawings and objects collected specifically for this exhibition.