The morbid oeuvre from photographer and artist extraordinaire, Dominic Rouse, is not for the faint-hearted. It takes strength to confront the deepest abyss of man’s quintessence.
Text: Lunita S V Mendoza
Photo: Dominic Rouse
Above: Ecce Homo. The background is a stairwell in offiec S-21, Pol Pot’s principal interrogation centre.
Brooks Jensen – exceptional artist, visual architect and aural instigator – comments that Dominic Rouse would be the first to admit that his use of the camera and the darkroom are unusual.
“Rouse does not photograph the world,” Jensen muses, “he makes photographs of his mind.”
In Rouse’s The Philosopher’s Tomb, profound issues and challenging questions abound. It is as complex as his passion, uniquely combining photography and fine art. Here, description fails and provocation begins.
Perhaps the more recognised of Rouse’s complex composition and an example of the refine mastery of his unique craft is Ecce Homo. This creation comes from, in Rouse’s own words, “the most chilling place I’ve ever been in”. Featuring a decaying figure, it is an image inspired in part by Rouse’s visits to Cambodia and the S-21 Museum in particular, a site of the Khmer Rouge’s principal interrogation facility in Phnom Penh.
On the 15th of April this year, 30 years after the Khmer Rouge were defeated, a court in Cambodia tried the man who headed this facility for “Crimes Against Humanity”, a phrase Rouse defines as something that is “loudly trumpeted whenever the Western Hypocrisies wish to visit their invidious sense of justice on others.”
“It is not possible for an individual human being to commit crimes against humanity. For crimes against humanity to occur, whole societies must be converted to the criminal cause,” Rouse adds. His passion for truth trails the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by American and British soldiers, where evidence of gruesome tactics can be found by those prepared to look for them. “Nonetheless, we can be sure that no British or American soldier will be found guilty of any crime, not for a lack of guilt or the evidence of it but because justice on this planet is the perverse plaything of the victorious.”
In the beginning, I asked Rouse what exactly he was trying to portray in Ecce Homo’s human putrefaction. “Do you still need to ask why Ecce Homo gives you a sense of decay?” the discoverer enquires. Obviously not anymore, I say to myself. ”It is,” Rouse starts again, “a portrait of humanity and our enduring lack of it.”
To see more of Dominic Rouse’s works, get the issue in which it appears here.