Roger Ballen Exhibition to Open in Italy

The Uncanny Lens / La Lente Inquietante | Roger Ballen & Joel-Peter Wilkin

The Uncanny Lens / La Lente Inquietante


Presents 60 photographic works by Roger Ballen and Joel-Peter Witkin

The first exhibition in Italy as part of an international tour to be held at the medieval setting of Castel

Ivano, in Trentino, Italy




The Uncanny Lens / La Lente Inquietante is an exhibition aimed at showcasing the photographic works of

two renowned artistic figures, Hamiltons-represented artist Roger Ballen, and Joel-Peter Witkin. Both artists are known for their distinctive and unconventional approaches to black-and-white photography, the human condition, the human psyche and the grotesque. The proposed exhibition seeks to encourage an exploration of the unconscious mind through photography. Further, by presenting a selection of these works side-by side, this exhibition seeks to offer a deepened and more nuanced appreciation for these artist’s contribution to Surrealism and to the history of photography.


The reference to the ‘uncanny’ in this exhibition is two-fold: it refers to the eerie quality of the works themselves, as well as to the remarkable and strange visual relationships between these two oeuvres.


This exhibition will consist of black-and-white photographs of each of the two artists spanning decades of

their careers. The images from both Joel-Peter Witkin and Roger Ballen have both been said to engage with

the ‘darker’ aspects of the human condition, the human psyche and the grotesque. The works have been described as ‘provocative’, ‘unsettling’ and ‘disturbing’. But it is in the juxtaposition of their photographs that

we gain a clearer understanding of each artist’s unique style as well as a deepened appreciation of Surrealistic photography.


This project reveals a profound dialogue established over the years between the two artists. In the juxtaposition of their photographs, we gain a clearer understanding of their unique aesthetic through their stylistic and iconographic references to myth and fantasy.


Witkin’s still lifes often reference pre-existing Western masterpieces and include macabre corpses and body

parts, fantastical elements, and religious and mythological imagery. His photographs are planned through

sketches, and pictorial approaches such as scratching negatives and printing through tissue to imbue the

scenes with a quality of the dreamlike, mystical and occult. In contrast, Ballen’s distinctive visual vocabulary

incorporates the use of dilapidated or discarded items, found objects and taxidermy, human mannequins

and actual body parts, graphic elements such as wires and art-brut drawings, toys and domestic animals

(from birds to cats, to rats).


Despite each artist's distinctive styles of expression, elements come together as surrealistic, absurd or uncanny mise-en-scenes that, in their formal harmony, venture into abstraction. Moreover, despite the geographical distance and the particular contexts of these artists (Witkin works mainly in New Mexico, USA

and Ballen in Johannesburg, South Africa), one finds a striking similarity in the vocabulary of motifs and in

the ways in which they are combined.




The Uncanny Lens / La Lente Inquietante exhibition has been organised by the Chirone culture association

under the artistic direction by Fulvio de Pellegrin and Paolo Dolzan, who assigned the curatorship of the

exhibition to Fortunato d'Amico.


The exhibition catalogue, containing 30 black-and-white images each of both Roger Ballen and Joel-Peter

Witkin, spanning over decades of their careers is published by Fallone Editore. The catalogue is supplemented by the critical contributions of various authors, including the philosophers Sergio Fabio Berardini and Alessio Caliandro, the poet Michelangelo Zizzi, and the critics Fiorenzo Degasperi and Mauro Zanchi. 


The project was realised thanks to the contribution of the Municipality of Ivano- Fracena and with the support

of: Studio artOK-Palmanova, Studio Publigarda, La Cassa Rurale di Ponte Arche, METS S. Michele a.

Adige, Sergio Poggianella Foundation.



WITH THE INVISIBLE / Tèchne, spirit, idea" presented at Palazzo delle Albere and METS in San Michele all'Adige (TN).