In a house in a secret location on the outskirts of Johannesburg people and animals, most notably birds, live side by side.
From 2008 to 2013 Roger Ballen, an American born photographer, who has lived in Johannesburg since the 1970s, photographed the inhabitants of the house. The result entitled Asylum of the Birds is haunting, provocative, disturbing and graphic but utterly compelling. They black and white images are richly layered with graffiti, drawings, animals, and found objects and exist in a space between painting, drawing, installation and photography.
To accompany the work Roger made a short film with director Ben Crossman which complements the images by immersing the viewer in an alternative reality.
“We didn’t have a script and none of the shots was rehearsed,” Roger says. “There’s something spontaneous about the film – it feels rough and edgy. We didn’t want it to be smooth and perfect-looking. Ben understood the reality I’ve been trying to create and was able to transform it in the video.”