Roger Ballen’s famous photographic work has been concerned with the interior architecture of standing structures, playing on the metaphor of the mind as a house of secrets and buried narratives. He has created a series of images inspired by the drawings and marks which people make on their environment that link his unique aesthetic to theatrical performance. Emma Calder and Ged Haney have used 2d computer animation and a brilliant music score by composer John Webb to turn these images into a film reminiscent of an old music hall or circus. In the theatre dismembered people, beasts and ghosts, dance, tumble, make love and tear themselves apart, plunging the audience into the nightmarish world of Roger Ballen’s subconscious.
Separated into seven chapters or “acts”, The Theatre of Apparitions is a treat of Ballenesque images taking readers on a deep journey into their subconscious.
Inspired by the sight of hand-drawn carvings on blacked-out windows in an abandoned women’s prison, Ballen started to experiment using different spray paints on glass and then ‘drawing on’ or removing the paint with a sharp object to let natural light through.
The results are like prehistoric cave-paintings: the black, dimensionless spaces on the glass are canvases onto which Ballen carves his thoughts and emotions. Fossil-like facial forms and dismembered body parts coexist uncomfortably with vaporous, ghost-like shadows.
Earthly and otherworldly, physical and spiritual, his work transcends all traditional concepts of photography.
The Theatre of Apparitions will be published by Thames & Hudson in November 2016.