The key players in the Roger Ballen/Die Antwoord: I Fink U Freeky exhibition are a truly incongruous pair. One is a hard working, yet reluctant artist who is many decades into his career. The other is a thoroughly raucous South African rap/rave group. Both are renowned in their respective fields and while the latter is notorious for its focus on style over substance (Die Antwoord’s performance art seems to take precedence over musical adeptness), the former is an unrelentingly talented and provocative photographer who is still pioneering the great world of black and white film photography as it reaches its end-of-days. Having worked together a number of times on various projects, this oddball collision of creatives has birthed some incredible still and moving imagery.
Krissi Weiss: “If an artist is one who spends his life trying to define his being, I guess I would have to call myself an artist,” is a powerful quote. Are you uncomfortable about defining yourself as an artist?
Roger Ballen: I’m very proud of myself that at age 63 I have remained true to myself. Unfortunately, the word art/artist has almost no meaning in today’s world; a person painting sunsets can call themselves an artist as did Picasso.
KW: Given that your work is directed from such a personal space, what was it like to have the subjects of your work (Die Antwoord) become co-creators of sorts?
RB: It was a very interesting, transformative process to work together with Die Antwoord on I Fink U Freeky. Both Ninja and Yo-landi were obsessed with my images and empathised with them on various levels. The producing of the video was the result of a group of people working as a team.
KW: Did their music directly influence what you were doing or was it more a case of the members themselves informing your artistic direction?
RB: The music didn’t influence my creative process. The first step in the filmmaking process involved creating the installations in which place the band would perform. Following this, Ninja and Yo-landi entered this space and they were filmed as they sang the tune and acted out their roles.
KW: The Roger Ballen/Die Antwoord relationship seems to be a strong one, are there plans to do more things together?
RB: I’m quite certain we’ll do things in the future. Both they and I are very busy with our careers and I am hopeful we’ll find a way and means to cooperate once again.
KW: Were you surprised by the response I Fink U Freeky received?
RB: I was totally, totally surprised by the response to I Fink U Freeky. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that 35 million people would view it.
KW: What are your thoughts on the future of black and white photography?
RB: Black and white will always exist as a medium, but less and less people will involve themselves with it. I’m part of the last generation that grew up in a black and white-dominated world. It takes decades to master this medium; most people are not willing to put the time, energy and passion to master this art form.
Roger Ballen/Die Antwoord:I Fink U Freeky is currently showing at Stills Gallery until October 5.