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Arles 2017 – Roger Ballen: “I will never understand reality”


Two exhibitions celebrate the work of Roger Ballen this summer in Arles: the first in the framework of the Rencontres programming, mainly in the form of installations, and the second at the Flair Galerie.

Why did you become a photographer?

I have been passionately involved with photography for nearly fifty years. The purpose in taking photographs has always been existential in nature; to find out more about Roger Ballen.

Could you describe the exhibition you are presenting at Les Rencontres d’Arles: why did you decide to do an installation? Is it the first time? 

Over the last few years; I have produced installations at a number of my Museum shows. The Installations can be seen as parallel art works that provide the viewer with a vision of the places where my photographs have been taken. At Les Renconres d’Arles I have transformed a ten-room abandoned derelict house into The House of the Ballenesque. During my last visit to Arles in 2002, I met a number of people who lived in this building.  I asked Sam Stourdze to locate this place as a potential venue for me. When he found that the house was abandoned it presented an ideal opportunity for me to link my previous memories of this place with my imagination to create what I believe is an artwork.

About the exhibition at Flair Gallery : how did you choose the pictures ?

Isabelle Wisniak, the owner of Flair Gallery was interested in my previous photographs that contain animals from my Shadow Chamber and Boarding House books. She chose the photographs for this show which opens on July 1st.

Can you describe how you study or prepare your images before taking them? 

I always travel to the place that I photograph with what I refer to as “a silent mind”. My photographs consist of literally thousands of steps and it is impossible for me to predict how these elements will fit together until I interact in the situation.

Does photography change the way you see the world?

At this point in time I use photography primarily as a tool to explore and to locate my core mind, my inner world.   It is a very mysterious enigmatic place that defines words and cannot be defined exactly.  I now understand that I will never understand reality.

Interview by Sophie Bernard

Roger Ballen, The House of the Ballenesque
Rencontres d’Arles
July 3 To September 24, 2017
Maison des Peintres

Roger Ballen, Le théâtre de l’esprit
July 1st to August 26, 2017
Flair Gallery
11 Rue de la Calade
13200 Arles

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