Through his photographs of life-size architectural models constructed out of paper and cardboard, Thomas Demand examines the ambiguous realm between reality and artifice.Read More
After graduating from Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich, in 1990, Thomas Demand enrolled at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf to study sculpture. There, he began to shape his current practice, initially working with paper out of practicality—easy to dispose or amend—then turning to photographic documentation of his paper sculptures. In his 2019 interview with It's Nice That, the artist described the turning point as his discovery of the photographic image as a record of a fleeting moment, which aligned with his work in paper because it 'also fades away.'
Many of Thomas Demand's architectural models stem from photographs of actual spaces that are usually ordinary-looking but associated with significant historical figures or events. These spaces, devoid of the human body, nevertheless attain hints of their presence. Room (1994) is based on the room in which Claus von Stauffenberg attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler and includes debris that suggests violence has occurred, while Kitchen (2004) depicts a domestic space that Saddam Hussein cooked it, evoking recent activity with utensils and bowls on the stove.
Although he replicates existing interiors at life size, Thomas Demand is not interested in truthful reproductions of the original. Some objects are deliberately replaced or altered, while others are rendered to appear fake. The artist destroys the sets completely after photographing so that the images become the only evidence his models once existed. Based on pre-existing images of real-world events yet with noticeable differences, Demand's recreations maintain a 'fragile balance', as described by the artist in his 2015 conversation with Ocula Magazine.
Thomas Demand has also expanded his paper-and-cardboard constructions to film. Recorder (2002) shows a model of an eight-track reel-to-reel tape recorder that seems to play Smile (1966): an unfinished album by the Beach Boys. During his 2010 residency at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, the artist merged his exploration of reality and artifice with society's increasing reliance on mass-circulated imagery and video in his two-minute film Pacific Sun (2011). Inspired by the footage inside a cruise ship taken during a storm, Demand's video characteristically captures the chaos and drama of the original scene in cardboard environments without the human body.
Out of his Getty Research Institute residency also rose 'Model Studies' (2011–ongoing), in which Demand photographs architectural models that are not his own. In his 2021 solo exhibition at Sprüth Magers London, Thomas Demand will show 'Model Studies' of late fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa's atelier. Demand lives and works between Berlin and Los Angeles.
Paper World, Fundación Botín, Santander, Spain (2020); Thomas Demand, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York (2018); The Boat is Leaking. The Captain Lied., Fondazione Prada, Venice (2017); FOCUS: Thomas Demand, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2016); Model Studies: Kōtō-Ku, Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo (2015); Pacific Sun, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2014); Thomas Demand, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2012).
Körper. Blicke. Macht. Eine Kulturgeschichte des Bades, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany (2020); Making Art Public: 50 Years of Kaldor Public Art Projects, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2019); Scripted Reality: The Life and Art of Television, Museo Jumex, Mexico City (2018); Catastrophe and the Power of Art, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2018); ISelf Collection: The Upset Bucket, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2017).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2020
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