Music* Coil – Fire of the Mind / Artworks* Roger Ballen – The Theatre of Apparitions

Music & Visions selected by Anna Lisa DM

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Fire of the Mind (composed by Coil / Danny Hyde / Jhonn Balance) from The Ape of Naples studio album. Recorded: 1993–2005 – Released: 2 December 2005 – Recording Location: Nothing Studios, New Orleans, The North Tower, Somerest, England – Label: Threshold House THRESH2 – Producer: Coil.
The Ape of Naples is the final album from Coil. The album compiles material from 1993 to 2004 assembled and reworked in 2005 by Peter Christopherson. It was released after the death of lead vocalist John Balance, who died on 13 November 2004. The title of this album was originally intended to be “Fire of the Mind”.
Several tracks from the abortive Nothing Records album Backwards are included here. The last song on the album is a cover version of the theme song from the BBC show, Are You Being Served?, which utilises Balance’s last ever words spoken on stage live at the Dublin Electronic Arts Festival in 2004, Coil’s final performance. This album was originally pressed as a digipak in the UK, but due to the low quality of the printing, it was repressed in Thailand.
Coil were an English experimental music group formed in 1982 by John Balance—later credited as “Jhonn Balance”—and his life partner and former Throbbing Gristle member Peter Christopherson, aka “Sleazy”. The duo worked together on a series of releases before Balance chose the name Coil, which he claimed to be inspired by the omnipresence of the coil’s shape in nature. Today, Coil remains one of the most influential and best-known industrial music groups.
The group’s first official release as Coil was a 1984 12″ album titled How to Destroy Angels released on the Belgian Les Disques du Crépuscule’s sublabel LAYLAH Antirecords. Following the 12″s success, Some Bizzare Records produced two albums, Scatology (1984) and Horse Rotorvator (1986). After departing Some Bizzare, Coil produced and released Love’s Secret Domain (1991), which saw the duo incorporate the influence of the UK acid house scene.
In 1985, the group began working on a series of soundtracks, among them music for the first Hellraiser movie based on the novel The Hellbound Heart by their acquaintance at that time, Clive Barker. The group’s first live performance in 16 years occurred in 1999, and began a series of mini-tours that would last until 2004. Following the death of John Balance on 13 November 2004, Christopherson announced via their official record label website Threshold House that Coil as an entity had ceased to exist… more on wikipedia

Roger Ballen
Voices, 2012 (2)

One of the most influential and important photographic artists of the 21st century, Roger Ballen’s photographs span over forty years.  His strange and extreme works confront the viewer and challenge them to come with him on a journey into their own minds as he explores the deeper recesses of his own.
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 took him out into the countryside and led him to take up his camera and explore 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. After 1994 he no longer looked to the countryside for his subject matter finding it closer to home in Johannesburg.
Over the past thirty five years his distinctive style of photography has evolved using a simple square format in stark and beautiful black and white. In the earlier works in 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 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 (2000, revised in 2015) and Shadow Chamber (2005) collaborating to create powerful psychodramas.
The line between fantasy and reality in his subsequent series’ Boarding House (2009) and Asylum of the Birds (2014) became increasingly blurred and in these series he employed drawings, painting, collage and sculptural techniques to create elaborate sets. There was an absence of people altogether, replaced by photographs of individuals now used as props, by doll or dummy parts or where people did appear it was as disembodied hands, feet and mouths poking disturbingly through walls and pieces of rag. The often improvised scenarios were now completed by the unpredictable behaviour of animals whose ambiguous behaviour became crucial to the overall meaning of the photographs. In this phase Ballen invented a new hybrid aesthetic, but one still rooted firmly in black and white photography.
In his artistic practice Ballen has increasingly been won over by the possibilities of integrating photography and drawing. He has expanded his repertoire and extended his visual language. By integrating drawing into his photographic and video works, the artist has not only made a lasting contribution to the field of art, but equally has made a powerful commentary about the human condition and its creative potential.
His contribution has not been limited to stills photography and Ballen has been the creator of a number of acclaimed and exhibited short films that dovetail with his photographic series’. The collaborative film I Fink You Freeky, created for the cult band Die Antwoord in 2012, has garnered over 85-million hits on YouTube. He has taken his work into the realms of sculpture and installation, most recently at Paris’ Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (2017), Australia’s Sydney College of the Arts (2016) and at the Serlachius Museum in Finland (2015) among others.
His most recent project has been The Theatre of Apparitions (Thames & Hudson, 2016) and its related animated film, inspired by the sight of hand-drawn carvings on blacked-out windows in an abandoned women’s prison. For this series Ballen started to experiment using different spray paints on glass and then ‘drawing on’ or removing the paint with a sharp object to let natural light through. The results have been likened prehistoric cave-paintings: the black, dimensionless spaces on the glass are canvases onto which Ballen has carved his thoughts and emotions.
In September 2017 Thames & Hudson will publish a large volume of the collected photography with extended commentary by Ballen titled Ballenesque: A Retrospection. In February 2017 the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town named its photographic facility the Roger Ballen Foundation Centre for Photography thereby ensuring that Ballen’s contribution to photography in Africa, and beyond, will continue into the future.

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