A recent visit to the Smithsonian’s Museum of African Art introduced us to the work of South African photographer Roger Ballen. Ballen combines rendered line drawings and black-and-white photography into visual still lives which often surprise and shock. One series titled “The Asylum” features collages of strange figures, snakes, skins, and wire hangers that present awkward relationships and absurd complexities .
The exhibit ends with a showing of the video I Fink U Freeky, a 2012 collaboration between Ballen and the South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for “The Answer.” ) It brings to mind the work of Diane Arbus, Joel Peter Witkin, and John Waters in its unabashed appropriation of trashy and bizarre images to question social and political mores and taboos. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is something haunting and strangely beautiful in Die Antwoord’s dance moves and raw lyrics. We commend the museum for showing this uncensored piece which some visitors will find offensive, but that will introduce others to a vigorous counterculture movement in a country with one of Africa’s most complex histories. Here’s the video link.
Yesterday was the annual Parade of Lights on the water in the Alexandria harbor. Each year, boat owners decorate their vessels with holiday lights and glide up and down the Potomac River, vying for cash prizes. We were lucky enough to be on the jurors’ vessel, the Miss Mallory, which is owned by our neighbors in Glen Echo. The fun began around 5:30 just as it was getting dark. A train of lights appeared from the north, and each passing craft slowly navigated past us, hoping for a positive reaction from the jurors. Many crew members were in seasonal outfits — one boat was entirely manned by Santas.
As we drank wine and munched on pop-corn, the news crew on the upper deck caught the festivities on film for those not able to attend. Here are more photos of the boats.
Although this video was made as an ad for a Japanese smartphone, the creativity and craftsmanship required in the setup and filming is masterful. A single ball rolling down a handcrafted xylophone in a wooded area of Kyushu, Japan, brings us a new rendition of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Watch the video here. Then watch the fascinating follow-up on how it was made. Thanks to Susan Welchman for forwarding it to us.