In Johannesburg, where he has been living since the 70’s, the American photographer Roger Ballen visited a very peculiar house four years ago, a house that has become the central focus of his present work. There he found a heterogeneous compound of South-African society. A great number of wild birds freely share the space with the humans, and with many other animals such as cats, rabbits, mice or ducks. The birds are cage less and free to come and go as they please. The rooms in this house are all covered with drawings of familiar, sometimes chimerical, figures and portraits made by the inhabitants.
Roger Ballen has named this place Asylum, which is also the title of his series. An asylum can be both a place of refuge, as well as of confinement.
It is this same ambiguity that gives sense to these images, a balancing act between the birds, illuminating symbols of freedom and peace, and a more somber aspect, chaotic and imbued with folly, exposed in the photographs within this very pictorial space.
The human figure vanishes under masks and make-up, to reveal only body parts and a permanent tension between freedom and confinement, tragic and comical, attraction and repulsion.
The photographer refers to his work as being the perfect meeting point between Surrealism and Art Brut and by incorporating photographic collages, Roger Ballen unveils what he calls an “imaginary realism.”
This exhibition, which will be the occasion to discover this set of yet unreleased images realized between 2008 and 2011, is produced by the Musée de l’Elysée.