Thomas Demand’s Manipulation of Reality

Thomas Demand’s Manipulation of Reality

Fact and fiction. Even if photography and cinema are supposed to be the more suitable means to record and convey reality, capturing transitory situations, we should know by now that the camera is not necessary synonymous for objective form of representation. This subject, in the age of mediated images, has already been investigated in depth to reveal the actual mechanism of constructing fictional scenes from the real world – it is understood that what we see through the lens of the new and old media frames cannot be taken for granted, but needs to be investigated to evaluate its reliability.

The versatile German artist Thomas Demand (b. 1964, Munich), combining video, sculpture, photography and architecture, builds complex stages that play with reality and illusion, making us linger over the ways in which the reality could be manipulated. Using paper and cardboard, and starting from images “stolen” by mass media, Demand assembles 1:1 dioramas, without human beings, and shoots them with telescopic lens that enhances their verisimilitude. Privileged places where unclear political events and unsolved news items took place – circumstances that remain in collective memory, surrounded by an air of mystery – the artist leaves visible traces of his making of: tiny imperfections such as pencil marks here and there or small wrinkles in the paper. After the shooting the models are destroyed, while the final results are neutral, frozen, hyper realistic and definitely unsettling pictures.

Among the most intriguing works by Demand we mention the Büro/Office (1995) that shows the Stasi headquarters after they were ransacked after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Presidency (2008), the Oval Office of the American president after the presidential election (the one after which G. W. Bush left his chair to Mr. Obama), Kontrollraum/Control Room (2011), where he displays the interior view of the control room of the atomic reactor Fukushima, deserted soon after the earthquake, and the latest Pacific Sun (2012), a two-minute-long film made by 2.400 frames, where the artist recreated, thanks to the footage of a surveillance camera, the chaos of a turbulent sea condition on a cruise ship.

At present, works by Thomas Demand are on view at four exhibitions: Thomas Demand, Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Thomas Scheibitz, the group show among the collateral events of the 13th International Architecture Exhibition, More real? Art in the age of truthiness at Site in Santa Fe until 6th January 2013, Model Studies at Esther Schipper, and last but not least, Demand’s first solo show at Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers’s Berlin gallery, which will run until 20th October 2012.

Monica Lombardi – Images courtesy of Sprüth & Magers Gallery