Eloise Fornieles & David Birkin | Hold

26 September - 19 October 2008

Primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and the same number of feet, one head with two faces looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike.  Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods.


Doubt reigned in the celestial councils. Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts?  Then there would be an end to the sacrifices and worship which men offered; but, on the other hand, the gods could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained. At last, Zeus discovered a way.  He said: 'Methinks I have a plan which will enfeeble their strength and so extinguish their turbulence; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers.  They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg.'

He spoke and cut men in two, like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or as you might divide an egg with a hair.  After the division, the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one.

These are the people who pass their whole lives together, and yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover's intercourse, but of something else which the soul evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment.

 

Aristophanes' Speech from Plato's Symposium



For this new series of works, Birkin and Fornieles photographed themselves holding intimate and tender positions to the point of exhaustion.  Each image records a transition, from pleasure to intense pain: the long exposures merging the two figures as their bodies gradually move under the strain of holding one another.


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Sketch
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Photographic printing by Nick Barnett at BAYEUX