Roger Ballen and Asger Carlsen's collaboration "No Joke" to be exhibited at Nordic Light 2018

Sniff, 2016. Roger Ballen, Asger Carlsen  ©

Sniff, 2016. Roger Ballen, Asger Carlsen ©

In the collaborative project titled No Joke, artists Roger Ballen (1950, US) and Asger Carlsen (1973, DK) explore the more sinister sides of the human psyche. Together the duo produced 37 images, without ever working in the same studio at the same time: their creative exchange and co-creation has been a purely online affair. Their menacing work evokes a sense of anxiety and longing that is usually experienced only in dreams.

Although Roger Ballen lives in Johannesburg and Asger Carlsen in New York, the two artists have been working together online for some four years. In their bizarre universe, Carlsen’s use of the human body as a plastic medium and Ballen’s interest in collages and the occult merge together. They create an outlandish world full of distorted bodies, manic creatures, flesh and rough sketches in black, white and grey. Both frightening and intimate, their work demonstrates fiction’s power to delve more deeply into the human spirit, compared to reality.

Asger Carlsen first suggested collaborating with Roger Ballen for an assignment by VICE in 2013. This evolved into a remarkable creative exchange that is conducted online only: the images with a white background originated in Carlsen’s studio in New York, while the images with a dark background originated in Johannesburg, where Ballen lives and works. The artists sent their work to each other and elaborated further on each other’s images. This resulted in the dark and mysterious book No Joke (2016): a collection of still lifes, crippled female figures, and fusions of their self- portraits.

Roger Ballen. Photo: Marguerite Rossouw  ©

Roger Ballen. Photo: Marguerite Rossouw ©

Asger Carlsen  ©

Asger Carlsen ©


Roger Ballen (1950, US), award-winning photographer from Johannesburg, concentrates on fictitious narratives. Ballen’s work has featured in more than fifty exhibitions worldwide, including in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His work was on show in Foam before in the group exhibition PRUNE – Abstracting Reality in 2009. Recent projects include The House Project (2015), Asylum of the Birds (2015), and in collaboration with the Cape Town-based satirical rap/rave/techno band Die Antwoord, I Fink U Freeky (2013)


Asger Carlsen (1973, DK) is known for his distorted black and white photographs of the human body. He has participated in various international solo and group exhibitions including in the V1 Gallery in Copenhagen, Dittrich & Schlechtriem in Berlin and G/P galerie in Tokyo. In 2016 his work from his series Hester was part of the exhibition Foam in Van Loon IV: Second Skin. His images have been published in international magazines such as HotShoe International, Frieze, Dazed & Confused and The New Yorker. Carlsen published two monographies: Hester (2012) and Wrong (2010). He lives and works in New York.

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