A slide, sandbox, swing, spring bouncer, seesaw, roundabout and a bench: seven modules – reproduced to scale and arranged in a 160-square-meter area – represent the standard inventory of a German playground. The objects – typically bright-colored, are coated here with soot-blackened pulp, and the dull, porous surfac- es conjure up images of the ash-rain from a volcanic eruption or the charred remains of a fire. A gritty sound installation reinforces the unsettling atmosphere, and the playground appears abandoned, frozen in time. Four spotlights bathe the area in a harsh light, which casts hard-edged shadows and mercilessly illuminates every cor- ner. While on real playgrounds sandy surfaces reduce the risk of injury, the toys here rest on hard, aseptically shiny tiled flooring that conjures up associations with a slaughterhouse or hospital; the playground mutates into a laboratory, the children into unwill- ing participants in a brutal experiment. The surrounding chain-link

fence creates a cage rather than a shelter; there is no entrance, thus causing the viewer to assume the role of an outside observer and supervisor. The simplified forms and intentional inaccuracies illustrate the model character of the work. Less a place of play than of surveillance and struggle, Balve’s “Bloc” is reminiscent of a prison yard (in French slang the word “bloc” means “prison” or “bunker”) or a boxing ring. The playground appears as a meta- phor for human existence and action in society – as a heterotopia, as elaborated by Michel Foucault: a separate “counter-space” that functions according to its own rules, and thus represents social relations in a particular way. SO