GOOBLE GOBBLE ONE OF US

Artists Roger Ballen and Asger Carlsen’s project No Joke can propel a fragile psyche into a state of vertigo. While Carlsen is known for his digitally-contorted silhouettes, Ballen’s work has long focussed on interior projections of the ego. This mind-body duality is the surface on which the hallucinogenic theater of No Joke takes form.

Through layering Ballen’s prehistoric-looking collages and sketches upon Carlsen’s liquified portrait photography, the artists created an enigmatic series in black-and-white. Grimy blankets cover bodies that rest serenely against bedroom walls. A bare-chested Ballen poses as a ventriloquist, propping his Carlsen dummy up on his lap. A large hand reaches for a crouching woman’s pelvis, her face painted and her body smeared with gaping smiley faces. A fishbowl-faced woman, whose outstretched arms have been replaced with a second torso, is pinched by a bystander’s smudged fingers. The masked subjects are rendered deformed, misshapen, with clubs for arms and wooden prostheses, as if created by a deranged Photoshop god.

A creepy intimacy hovers over the spaces and figures in No Joke, yet the result is oddly whimsical. With Ballen residing in Johannesburg and Carlsen living in New York City, these images were the product of a digital correspondence that opened up the space for a kind of kinship. “I guess I always had a feeling when I was growing up that I wasn’t part of the group in a way. I think that photography and making art has helped me get closer to a sane world, so to speak,” Asger Carlsen said in an interview, “It’s like you have this awkward feeling, you don’t feel comfortable around people, and for me, these images are getting rid of this feeling a little bit.” Taken as such, the works reflect an attempt to deal with interpersonal awkwardness by pushing it into a physical presence. Like the Quantum Zeno Effect, a theory wherein particles only come to a stable form when examined under a microscope, Ballen and Carlsen’s bodies seem to explore the contours of what the body looks like in the dark – before it is wedged into form by social codes. This is the realest form of surreality, that which turns into something normal when it steps into the light.

 

No Joke was exhibited at Dittrich & Schlechtriem (Berlin, 2016). A catalogue documenting the work was published by Mörel Books.

Text: EVA KELLEY

All Images: ROGER BALLEN & ASGER CARLSEN

Related Content

  • Every FRANCIS BACON, Ever.

    Edited fastidiously over a period of ten years, the catalogue raisonné of Francis Bacon – assembled by art historian Martin Harrison and published by HENI – is a strange and triumphant labor of love. It includes every work in the British artist’s oeuvre, of which are more than 100 never-before-seen paintings.More
  • Deeper

  • TERRITORIAL SIGNALS: A portrait of TOLIA TITAEV

    For 032c Issue 35, we photographed the young Russian skateboarder and designer wearing our COSMIC WORKSHOP collection. “If I didn’t have skateboarding in my life, I have no idea what I’d be doing," he told us. "I owe all my achievements to skating.”More
  • 032c Cosmic Workshop Collection

    032c COSMIC WORKSHOP "Rock Bottom" Vest Black

    €190
    Buy Now
  • 032c Cosmic Workshop Collection

    032c Cosmic Workshop Belt

    €170
    Buy Now
  • 032c Cosmic Workshop Collection

    032c COSMIC WORKSHOP "Maria" Longsleeve Grey

    €90
    Buy Now
  • Life Exists: Theaster Gates’ Black Image Corporation

    Theaster Gates' “The Black Image Corporation” presents photographs from the holdings of Chicago’s Johnson Publishing Company, a sprawling archive that shaped “the aesthetic and cultural languages of contemporary African American identity.” Gates approached the project as a celebration and activation of the black image in Milan through photographs of women photographed by Moneta Sleet Jr. and Isaac Sutton – of black entrepreneurship and legacy-making. “Life exists” in the Johnson archive, he says, just as it exists and should be honored in other places of black creativity.More
  • FRIDA ESCOBEDO: The Era of the Starchitect is Over

    Rising Mexican architect Frida Escobedo is relentlessly inquisitive, eschewing stylistic constants in favour of an overriding preoccupation with shifting dynamics. Personal curiosity is the driving force behind her practice, which makes he an outlier in a profession dominated by extroverted personalities keen on making bold assertions. "I think it really is a generational shift," Escobedo says. "The idea of the starchitect making grand gestures with huge commissions is over."More
  • “I live a hope despite my knowing better”: James Baldwin in Conversation With Fritz J. Raddatz (1978)

    Born in Berlin in 1931, editor and writer Fritz J. Raddatz relied on food delivered by African American GIs after the death of his parents. To Baldwin he was an “anti-Nazi German who has the scars to prove it.” Debating his return to the USA after 25 years, Baldwin explores the political climate in America at the end of the 1970s in a conversation at home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.More
  • House as Archive: James Baldwin’s Provençal Home

    For her new book, Magdalena J. Zaborowska visited the house Baldwin occupied from 1971 to 1987 “to expand his biography and explore the politics and poetics of blackness, queerness, and domesticity”. Here, she narrates her early journeys to Baldwin’s home and proposes a salve for its recent loss: a virtual presentation of Baldwin’s home and effects.More