BALLEN AT SPAO

I haven’t always been conflicted about the photographs of Roger Ballen.

Ten or so years ago, when  I ran across his book, Platteland, I thought it was great. The images there were mostly reality-based portraits shot in the South African countryside. You could see a direct line from Disfarmer, through Arbus and Avedon, to what Ballen was showing us, and how he was showing it.

Then time went on and Ballen’s work progressed. The imagery became more and more melodramatic, and overstatement and repetition became a kind of modus operandi. Along with this he developed some kind of overarching philosophy about what his work was about and how it might be interpreted (and doesn’t seem shy about telling you about it).  I began to have my doubts.

You see, my own biases are towards reality-based imagery. I try to like and appreciate constructed imagery, but often my heart’s not in it. I think, too, that I am (rightly or wrongly) kind of turned off when an artists’ pronouncements and legend-building move too far forward in their scheme of things.

Having said all that I also have to say that I’m intrigued by what he does and am still in thrall of that early work. So it was with great interest that I went to have a look at THERE IS NO OUTSIDE, a show of Roger Ballen prints at SPAO.

The show is modest . . . we see 9 Ballen prints. There is also a video monitor showing 2 documentary-type things and a music video.

It is impossible to assess the scope and progress of Ballen’s work with such a small sampling, though there is also a copy of Ballen’s latest book, Ballenesque, on view . . . a compendium his work along with enough writing for you to see where he’s coming from.

It is a pleasure to be able to approach and study the prints. I was struck by the grit, and the sheer old-school photographic-ness of them. Too, there is something to be said for being alone in a gallery with this imagery, being able to walk up to and away from it, to see the actual artifact.

Kudos to SPAO for bringing this exhibition to Kapital City. It is the first in SPAO’s new series of annual exhibitions that feature an international artist. I look forward to seeing where they go from here with this program.

Roger Ballen
SPAO
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drool. will be taking a summer vacation.

Regular programming will resume September 2nd.

Of course, that’s not to say there won’t be some kind os special, one-off episodes appearing between now and then. There might be. I don’t know.

Best way to make sure you don’t miss an episode? Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, where I’ll post about new drool. episodes (and other stuff too).

Enjoy the summer.

PREDICTING THE PRESENT

When I began my latest project, back before Trump was elected, or even running to be, President of the USA, I was calling it The Future.

That, what the future might look (and feel) like, was what I was trying to show, was the thought I was holding in my head as I went about shooting and sequencing the images.

But as I got deeper into the thing that title, The Future, seemed  too proscriptive, didn’t leave enough room for the viewer to wonder. And leaving room for the viewer to wonder is, in my opinion, central to art.

At any rate, about 9 months ago I decided to call the work After the Fact.
That seemed a more open-ended title, with some future, some outcome, being merely implied. People looking at the work might wonder, “After what fact?”.

But it would seem that events have overtaken the possible future I had imagined. It would seem that we have moved past whatever fact the work asked its viewers to imagine. We no longer have to imagine, it’s there, right in front of us.

So now this work seems to me to be more like news (although not the news that’s presented to you by all the status quo minds and habits that seem to control media, governmental and corporate institutions).

Perhaps I should change the title again, maybe I should call it The Present.

Please go here and support this project. You will be rewarded.

(It’s eighty-one percent funded. Seven days and eight hundred dollars to go.)

KICKSTARTER V.S. THE ARTS GRANT SYSTEM (+ ADVERTISING)

One of the things I like about Kickstarter is that it allows you to circumvent the ArtGrantSystem™, which is usually adjudicated by small juries of your peers. Which is all well and good if your work conforms to the kind of work that is generally supported by, well . . . a small jury of your peers. Of course, the ArtsGrantSystem™ will also, if you are successful, bestow you with the affirmation and self-worth that being accepted by that system provides.

But that’s neither here nor there to me. You see, one of things I’m interested in these days is how to create and distribute outside the ArtSystem™. (Which is not to say that I haven’t seen some truly amazing work brought forward and supported by the ArtSystem™. I have.)

But the ArtSystem™, like all systems, is mostly preoccupied (whether it knows it or not) with self-perpetuation, with propping up the status quo, with gate-keeping, with commerce.

(Everything, though, is a system of some sort. Heck, even my personal approach to photographing and disseminating the resultant work is a system. A system of one, mind you. But, like every system, it too is corrupt.
I like to think it’s not as corrupt as large, institutional, governmental, and corporate systems, and because I have so little reach, is only corrupt on a small scale. But let’s be honest . . . nothing in this chemical world is pure.)

Further . . . with the ArtGrantSystem™ your pitch is pretty much private, shared only with the administrator(s) and the jury. If you are successful, of course, you’ll let people know. If you are not successful, well, no one needs to know, right?

On the other hand, Kickstarter is public. You succeed or fail right out in the open.

And that brings me to my least favourite thing about Kickstarter . . . the need to constantly sell. Sell, sell, sell. Twist some arms, maybe call in a favour or two. Such a drag. Not only on the psyche of the seller, but also on the psyche of the prospective supporters.

But the fact is . . . advertising works. To be successful on Kickstarter (in my experience) you need to constantly remind people you’re trying to make something happen, and that it won’t happen without their help.

I try to remind myself, though, that advertising can occasionally be useful in a positive way. Most adverts pass right through my head, I pay no attention. But every so often I see something advertised and I think to myself, I think, Tony, that looks like something worthwhile. If I hadn’t seen the advert I’d never have known.

Of course, even if something looks worthwhile I still must consider the ethical/moral aspects of the thing, and I still must decide if it’s worth spending money for it.

So consider this an advert for selling you a copy of After the Fact.

I’m at 60% now, but things are slowing down. So if you’ve been thinking about helping make this happen, now might be the time to chip in. Please and thank you. Go here and support this project.

Trailer Nº 2 . . .