Die Menge

Frank Balve’s photographic series “Die Menge / Working Class” plays with the classic metaphor of two bodies merging, but here the romantic love associated with this image seems only to be a traditional ideal. The sepia-toned, 2.63 x 2.00-meter images de-pict a dark background with two naked torsos, which are similar in form and stance. At first glance, the images appear to be re-flections, but this impression is false. The figures merge and their outlines converge in some places, while in others the contours of the bodies blur and become abstract forms. Equally uncertain is the sex of the subjects: heads and genitals are not visible, the skin is shaved down to the pubic area and, with few exceptions, the forms are androgynous. Technically speaking, the images are montages of body parts of different individuals that the artist combines as collages on the computer and then edits. Resulting from uncertainty, the ghostly character of the images is reminis-cent of the medium‘s early days, such as those of spiritualist pho-tography or early radiographs. Associations with medical images are also possible, like those of emaciated patients or Siamese twins. However, the fashionable piercings and tattoos permit the conclusion that the individuals portrayed strive to represent a contemporary ideal of beauty. They appear as followers of a nar-cissistic body cult that negates both gender and individuality. SO