The exhibition on the oeuvre of Roger Ballen that was shown in the Dr. Guislain Museum in 2014, now will be shown abroad. From 16th of December 2016 until the 5th of March 2017 the exhibition Shadowlands - Roger Ballen will be presented in TEA in Tenerife.
Roger Ballen was born in New York in 1950 but for over 30 years he has
lived and worked in South Africa. His work as a geologist led him to the
countryside where he took his camera and explored the hidden world of
small South African towns. At first he explored the empty streets in the
glare of the midday sun but, once he had made the step of knocking on
people’s doors, he discovered a world inside these houses which was
to have a profound effect on his work. These interiors with their distinctive
collections of objects and the occupants within these closed worlds
took his unique vision on a path from social critique to the creation of
metaphors for the inner mind.
Over the years his distinctive style of photography has evolved using a
simple square format in stark and beautiful black and white. In the earlier
works of the exhibition, his connection to the tradition of documentary
photography is clear but through the 1990s he developed a style he
describes as ‘documentary fiction’. After the year 2000, the people he
first discovered and documented living on the margins of South African
society, increasingly became a cast of actors working with Ballen in the
series’ Outland and Shadow Chamber, collaborating to create powerful
The line between fantasy and reality in his more recent series, Boarding
House and Asylum of the Birds, has become increasingly blurred. In
these series he has employed drawings, painting, collage and sculptural
techniques to create elaborate sets. People are now often absent
altogether, replaced by photographs of people used as props, by parts of
dolls or dummies. When they do appear, they do as disembodied hands,
feet and mouths poked disturbingly through walls and pieces of rag. The
often improvised scenarios are completed with the unpredictable and
ambiguous behaviour of animals, which is crucial to the overall meaning
of the photographs.
The collection of outsider art at the Dr Guislain Museum consists of several sub-collections. Apart from our own permanent collection there are a number of collections on long-term loan. In 2002 the collection was vastly expanded with the internationally renowned top collection of Collectie De Stadshof. The latter comprises more than 6,000 works – from naive art to art brut – by almost 400 outsider artists. There are also long-term loans and donations from, among others, Willem van Genk Foundation, Studio La Pommeraie, Monera Foundation Gemert, Guus Maris, Piet Slijkerman and Otto Prinsen.
Where lies the boundary between fantasy and reality? How can we distinguish dream from delirium, illusion from wish, hallucination from discernment? How can we explore or imagine what takes place elsewhere? The exhibition covers two centuries, starting from the many questions concerning psychosis, hallucination and illusion. Not to give a classic historic account, but to elucidate five unique oeuvres from this period that balance between art, knowledge and science. J.J. Grandville, Gustav Mesmer, Gerard Heymans, Jean Perdrizet and Mathew Kneebone each created or mapped out a different universe, thus trying to grasp the ungraspable in their own way. These are worlds in which pencils walk, bicycles float, the distance between two parallel lines is variable, typewriters are in contact with the deceased and street lamps stop shining when you walk past them. Another World creates passages: from this one to the other, between the other worlds among themselves, and perhaps also from the other world back to this one.
Moses, Tarzan and Superman: we don’t give it much thought, but in popular stories the protagonist is often an adopted child with special powers. Myths, novels and comics are teeming with adopted heroes. The exhibition goes into this cultural fascination and confronts it with historical documents and contemporary questions. How does origin influence the search for an own identity? How do adoption practices evolve? Is the focus on the child, the prospective parents or society? How do procedures work and what if they are lacking? How do we deal with the traumas caused by forced adoption today?
The varied, sensitive history of adoption is illustrated with documentary material, old and modern art, literature, photography, film excerpts and testimonies. Adoption. Between adventure and misadventure explores the representation of adoption practices, focuses on personal stories and in this way enters the current debate.
What is the extraction of the stone of madness? How do shamans expel evil spirits? What was the effect of the ‘rotation therapy’, invented by Belgian’s first psychiatrist Joseph Guislain? What objects protect us from disease and madness? What does present-day psychiatry look like?
In the course of history people have dealt with madness through a mixture of magic and religion, coercion and care, supervision and science. The unreasonable have been punished, anointed, cared for and cured.
The history of mental health care has known a good deal of desperation, malpractices and sometimes unjustified euphoria. The mental patient confronts us with questions that are hardly answerable and problems that are anything but easy to solve. How do we deal with those who are different? How do we deal with that which is different in ourselves?
The permanent exhibition on the history of psychiatry also pays attention to madness in other cultures and to contemporary questions, problems and ideas. By presenting the terms ‘madness’ and ‘mental illness’ in their historical and cultural contexts, the Museum Dr. Guislain wants to challenge the line between ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’.