Our friend opens with some really quite sharp remarks on Art and what it ought to do. While I might state things a bit differently, and have, I agree with Jörg here. It's a lead-in to his discussion of Ballen, and ends up being a sort of weird apologia in opposition to what he actually has to say about the book and the pictures.
Colberg seems to sort of indistinctly dislike Ballen, although I can't quite be even sure of that. It might just be his knee-jerk "if it's successful it must be crap" response, but I'm not sure. There's a definite tone of "Ballen is too damn headstrong" throughout, I find, which I found to be wildly offensive. Ballen is right, and Colberg is wrong: the Artist cannot spare even a moment, not an iota of energy, worrying about what other people think.
Sure, when you're learning, when you're collaborating, it's a different thing. But when you're out there, there's simply nothing for it but to roll the dice, do your thing, and see what happens. We know precisely what happens when you insist of workshopping things, and looking (and taking) feedback. You get milquetoast bullshit. We get MFA students making the least interesting books imaginable about subjects drawn from the list of Super Challenging subjects:
- Myself. The most uninteresting subject on earth but very very safe. Nobody in academia will deny your Lived Experience.
- Racism in America. This is officially challenging, but is among the safest subjects ever. You'll get some angry tweets, though. It's ok, literally everyone else who sees your work will fawn over you for your bravery.
- Sexism. See above.
- How lame Rural America is.
Ballen has the temerity to do none of these things. He's doing something quite mad.
I'm not sure what on earth Colberg is trying to say drawing lines from Ballen to Arbus, Lipper, and Gilden, other than all of them seem to have the same complete lack of interest in their subjects. He's muddling up cruel photography with photographs of a cruel world here, and it's not clear he's making much sense.
All in all, Colberg's not got a lot to say about Ballen. He starts out strong, and if one applies his comments on Art to Ballen, one ends up easily with "this stuff is Good Art" because by god it gets up in your face and expands the old brain. It's like Dali, except real, right? But then Colberg wanders into the weeds of kind of hating on the guy.
I think it's also possible that the title is a joke, Ballenesque could be a reference to arabesque, as much as it is a naming of a style.
But the first bit is very strong.