This short ‘documentary’, directed by Ben Jay Crossman, accompanies the launch of Roger Ballen’s new book of photographs, Asylum of the Birds. With nods to the Surrealist classic Un Chien Andalou and that scene in John Waters’ ultra-grotesque Pink Flamingos, it’s a weird and unsettling journey into the subterranean nightmarish world where the characters and creatures of his photographs reside. It’s an internal world made real, which compounds and confuses what exactly ‘real’ is.
The ‘Asylum’ is located on the outskirts of Johannesburg in an indeterminate boarder land between nowhere. It’s a place away from the world that personifies the dual meaning of asylum – both a shelter and a madhouse. Co-inhabited by animals, animal-like people and birds, Ballen is master of this liminal space, which he here invites you to enter with him.
Asylum of the Birds is like muti for the psyche. Ballen has likened his work in the past to medicine, and most uncomfortable for those who need it the most.