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Inside Out Center for the Arts : Roger Ballen : End of the Game


Roger Ballen‘s Inside Out Center for the Arts opens its doors on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 in Johannesburg, with an exhibition that highlights the ecological crisis of the African continent.

Founded by internationally acclaimed artist-photographer Roger Ballen, the Inside Out Center is set to become a prominent landmark on bustling Jan Smuts Avenue. Along with the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Museum and the Johannesburg Foundation for Contemporary Art, it is one of a trio of cultural centers in the central suburb of Forest Town. The area is located near the Constitutional Hill historic site and the Rosebank district, rich in restaurants and galleries.

The Inside Out Center for the Arts serves a dual purpose: it is an art exhibition space and an educational center.

It will present exhibitions that explore issues related to the African continent from a purely aesthetic and psychological point of view. The Inside Out Center will also host a dynamic program of educational talks, panel discussions, masterclasses and presentations around the current exhibition, as well as arts and culture topics.

The Inside Out Center for the Arts is the result of many years of work. The Roger Ballen Foundation, established in 2007 and renamed the Inside Out Trust Foundation, is dedicated to education through the arts in South Africa. The Foundation has sponsored exhibitions of international artists in Johannesburg and invited speakers to give lectures for students in the city. After a while, Ballen felt that the Foundation needed a place for exhibits and programs to run on an ongoing basis. In January 2018, he finally found a property in an ideal location to carry out his project. The Inside Out Center was built on this land.

The name “Inside Out” reflects the idea that the exhibits at the Inside Out Center will encourage introspection, and the design of the building is inspired by the same objective. Raw concrete was used on the interior and exterior surfaces of the building, the latter concealing the entrance which opens onto a grandiose space, with double volume bathed in natural light.

“I sometimes think the building looks like it was built ‘inside out,'” comments Ballen, who worked closely with local architect Joe van Rooyen of the architectural firm JVR to create an iconic building.

The inaugural exhibition “End of the Game” addresses the question of the decimation of wildlife through a prism that is both historical and artistic.

Using documentary photographs, ancient objects and film clips as well as Ballen’s photographs and installations, the exhibition highlights the historical significance and context of the “Golden Age” of African hunting expeditions led by colonialists. and Western figureheads – such as Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, King Edward VIII and Hemingway – which took place from the mid-19th century. Ballen’s approach explores the deep psychological relationships that man has with the natural world.

The exhibit chronicles the rampant hunting that led to the ecological devastation we face today. Poaching remains a significant threat to many African species, including elephants, rhinos and big cats.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), it is estimated that in recent years 20,000 elephants have been killed each year for their ivory, and that 1,000 rhinos were killed in 2020 alone in South Africa.

Countries like South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania continue to attract international trophy hunters despite concerns about animal welfare, sustainability and ethical issues associated with the practice. The illegal wildlife trade still continues.

According to Ballen, “This exhibit encourages essential discussions about how we treat animals, wildlife management, responsible tourism and environmental stewardship in our world today. »

Since the beginning of Ballen’s artistic career, the animal has been an important symbol in his work. The works of art presented in End of the Game come from different series produced from the mid-1980s and make use of photography, installation, painting, and drawing.

Portraits of armed men were selected from one of Ballen’s early photographic series taken in the South African countryside and titled Platteland: Images of Rural South Africa (1994). A few years after completing this series, Ballen began photographing the outskirts of Johannesburg. The disappearance of human subject, the emergence of the animal in various forms and the presence of linear figures and drawings characterize his later series, most of which were published as books.

These series, including Outland (2001), Shadow Chamber (2005), Boarding House (2009), Asylum of the Birds (2014) and Roger’s Rats (2017) show Ballen’s signature style, which can be described as theatrical, dark, dreamlike and absurd.

Light boxes made from images from the Theater of Apparitions (2016) presented at the Venice Biennale in 2022 are also included. For this series, Roger Ballen and Marguerite Rossouw painted and drew ghostly figures on the windows of a warehouse in Johannesburg before photographing these creations.

The exhibition includes some of the artist’s most recent color photographs (from 2017), marking his move to color after 50 years of working exclusively in black and white.

Over the past decade, Ballen has created installations to accompany his photographs in various exhibitions. Most of these installations are made from found objects collected by the artist over the past 40 years. In this exhibition, photographs and three-dimensional works of art enrich the experience of what is now considered Ballen’s distinctive style, “the Ballenesque“.

Together, these pieces by Ballen explore the complex relationship between man and animal through the artist’s aesthetic. “One of the main challenges of my career has been to find the animal in the human being and the human in the animal,” explains Ballen, “and the pieces I photograph represent the conflicting relationship between civilization and nature, where opposites attract and smash in a world built not on logic, but on irrationality. Delusions, mirages, dreams and nightmares coexist and cannot be categorized as light or darkness. »


© Standard Bank


About the Inside Out Center for the Arts

The Inside Out Center for the Arts is a non-profit foundation created in 2008 by internationally renowned artist-photographer Roger Ballen. Its aim is to make a significant contribution to the Johannesburg cultural scene and to the African continent as a whole.

It will present exhibitions that explore issues related to the African continent from a purely aesthetic and psychological point of view. The Inside Out Center will also host a dynamic program of educational talks, panel discussions, masterclasses and presentations around the current exhibition, as well as arts and culture topics.




The exhibition can be visited by appointment only. Reservations can be made on the Inside Out Center for the Arts website.

Price: R150 (R100 for students). This prize includes a copy of the catalog for the inaugural exhibition, End of the Game.

For more information:

Instagram: @insideoutcentre / Facebook: Inside Out Centre for the Arts

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