"Roger Ballen’s work demand’s the viewer’s attention. I am constantly struck by its obsessiveness: the details that on first glance may appear random, found, but which in fact are brilliantly and almost compulsively orchestrated. To me, Roger’s sensibility feels the antithesis of any “decisive moment” idea, yet it is remarkably decisive and present, although in a more dreamlike manner. The moment, almost always disquieting, is in his head. Odd, sometimes funny, sometimes creepy juxtapositions comprise these little ecosystems wherein everything feels on the verge. Cat in a Basket – even the title, with its implicit suggestion of a sweeter, more conventional dynamic, becomes slightly perverse: could this cat be more claustrophobically jailed than by its basket, turned over and making him into a sideshow of sorts? (Or maybe he’s cozy... one can’t help projecting, anthropomorphizing with Roger’s work.) Ever-present wires, sculptural, playing off the childlike drawings, vandalized by black paint or tape. I have looked at Roger’s photographs over the course of about ten years, and I see his work differently now than I did on first consideration. Now, he feels more like a choreographer to me, leading the viewer’s eye in a multiplicity of directions, creating tensions in both form and content – nothing expected, no discernible plot line: this is Roger’s world, and his are the least still “still lifes” I know..."
The 8: Melissa Harris
What is your line of work?
Editor-in-chief, Aperture magazine; Editor/Curator of special projects for Aperture Foundation
If you were a work of art, which one would you choose?
I think I'd like to inhabit/be any number of Merce Cunningham dances.
What is your earliest memory of art?
My earliest memory of art is an Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup Can at a friend's house. I asked my parents why my friend's parents kept their soup in the living room.
Which museum or foundation would you like to be locked in one night?
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli