Die Antwood <3’s Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen makes some pretty freaky art. You’ll probably recognize his black and white photo of the thick-necked, large-eared twins from just about every single photo compilation book published over the past 20 years. And you’ll also know his slightly disturbing scribblings from the video he directed for Die Antwoord’s “I Fink You Freeky"—a project that came about eight years after Ninja and Yolandi first contacted the artist to tell him that they loved his work.
Recently Ballen released a book, also titled I Fink You Freeky, that features a bunch of his photographs of the South African duo posing in front of his artwork and installations. I got in touch with Roger to have a chat about the project and what it feels like to stop by Ninja and Yolandi’s house for a bowl of pasta, only to discover that it’s covered in a bunch of his own artwork.
VICE: Hey, Roger. How did this partnership with Die Antwoord begin?
Roger Ballen: I think it was in 2005 that Yolandi emailed me and said she loved my work and wanted to collaborate somehow. I said, “I don’t know you, I’m not really doing video and I’m in Johannesburg,” because they were in Cape Town at the time.
In 2010, some people started writing to me and calling me, asking if I’d seen this band that had gone viral who were using my images and drawings, and what I thought about it. I looked the band up and saw that it was Yolandi and Ninja.
Were you OK with them using all your images without permission?
For every one photography fan, there are 10,000 music fans, which means that having Die Antwoord spread the Roger Ballen aesthetic makes my audience that much wider. We got in touch again and discussed how we were going to continue our collaboration. I’d been working on a book called Asylum of the Birds, going to this boarding house of itinerants where birds fly freely and people come and go, sleep and live their lives alongside these birds. I showed them some of the pictures, which they loved, and together we chose images from that series and from archives of my earlier work to inspire scenes for a film.
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