There was a scene in a recent David Lynch documentary where he tells the story of his father visiting his art studio when he was still a student. He invited his father down to the basement to see his “treasures” of dead mice and other oddities. His father was silent as he considered the items, and once back upstairs, David’s father counciled him to never have children. Johannesburg-based American photographer and painter Roger Ballen has been in his own basement of sorts for 35 years, creating work that is dark and surreal and right up my alley. I have always been a fan of his work, even own a few of his photographs–maybe its because I am drawn to visuals that challenge the norm. His authentic ability to construct bizarre and strange worlds is uniquely his own.
Roger has just released a new book and soon-to-be-film based on his character, Roger the Rat. The book follows the life of a creature whose body is human but whose head is that of a rat. Ballen’s rat character interacts with mannequins, people and various objects in often cramped and oppressive rooms, in ways that defy explanation but seem at once humorous and sinister. “Even though this work could be seen to be radically different than my previous work, the images could be viewed in essence as ultimately uncanny and absurd in meaning pervaded by the Ballenesque aesthetic.”