Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Mike's Kitchen, Parktown

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Service: * * 1/2
Food: * *
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: *

I've ordered the linefish of the day. Yellowtail. With rice. Oddly enough, so has Lionel Murcott. As has Roger Ballen.

We've all got notepads and pens in front of us, and we're scribbling away furiously as ideas come to us.

Roger Ballen is the renowned photographer responsible for the notorious book, PLATTELAND. It's notorious because it shows photos of inbred mutants, and a whole bunch of people have taken exception to these photos, accusing Roger of exploiting them.

It's not easy making a judgement call about this subject. Least of all by me. (Seeing as one or two people have already accused me of being exploitative in my depictions of the people I come across on this website.) But for my money, Roger's making high art, and the fact that people freak out about it is an indication of the power of his material.

We've just arrived at the restaurant after looking through a wad of new photographs Roger's been working on for the past two or so years. He's bringing out a new book, and the three of us are brainstorming a name for it.

His work has progressed over the years. He started off showing exteriors, weird worlds with no people in them. Then he went inside the homes of these people, and showed them in all their gory detail. Mutants. Hectic people, barely human, but exuding a warped and real humanity. Now he's looking at the traces these people leave on the walls of their rooms. The people are almost entirely absent from many of the photos. In one or two of them, you'll see the fingers curled up over the edge of a table while the person hides beneath. All you can see are the gnarled fingers. And that's only if you look hard, cos you'll probably be seeing the pigeon chained to the table, and the weird, naive artworks scribbled on the walls.

The food comes just as we hit a brick wall.

We eat. Lionel and Roger enjoy their fish, eating every last morsel on the plate. My fish tastes like it came out of a slime dam. It's inedible. I take three mouthfuls, then turn in despair to the rice. There's just enough of that to cover the edge of my hunger, and I've got some Woolworth's pre-prepared meals in my freezer now, so I can eat when I get home.

I can't reveal the name of the book, but we cracked it. It's one of those one-word titles that cracks you between the eyes when you see it, capturing the world Roger has sealed in his camera. As soon as Roger mumbles the word, Lionel and I jolt upright.

"That's the one!" I say.

"That's it!" says Lionel.

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