DHC/ART is delighted to present an exhibition focused on Thomas Demand’s films and videos. A philosophical commentator on the authenticity of the “real” and the slippages of memory, Demand is a well-known German photographer who began as a sculptor, but is now widely acclaimed for photographic and moving image works.
Demand’s work interlaces photography, architecture and sculpture. His method usually begins with an image culled from the media, which is meticulously re-fabricated, by hand, into a life-size, three-dimensional paper and cardboard sculpture, to ultimately end up as a photograph. The resulting images are both very recognizable and strangely out of reach. Crucial to the context are photography’s long-debated truth claims, and the photograph’s indexical quality.
The artist’s intriguing photos and films, always devoid of people, lure the viewer into a reality that is not what it appears to be. He makes images in the image of an image – therefore, triply removed from reality. The large format photos are the end result of a circuitous movement beginning with media imagery (photojournalism or surveillance video footage) depicting a known scene of political intrigue or other malfeasance – through to a painstakingly rendered sculpture to re-emerge as the same, yet-not-quite-the-same, photograph. Significantly, the sets or sculptures are destroyed after the photograph is taken.
The films follow the same conceptual logic. For the most part, they are a series of stop-motion animations consisting of thousands of individual photographs, with frame-by-frame alterations. The centerpiece of the DHC/ART exhibition is the staggering Pacific Sun (2012). Drawn from a YouTube clip of a security camera on a cruise ship caught in a violent storm in the South Pacific, it’s easily Demand’s most ambitious project to date. Recreating the panicked scene from the boat’s café, he re-stages the dramatic original footage with shows chairs, tables and people seesawing from one side of the room to the other. Demand’s film omits the people, but meticulously recreates all other movements of this near disaster. Hundreds of hurtling objects of varying density, shape and heft are engaged in complex movements, and are all very carefully choreographed to render the astonishingly seamless effect of careening motion as a boat is repeatedly struck by colossal waves.
The exhibition also includes Rain (2008), a wonderful film that recreates, with graceful precision, the pitter-patter of falling rain on a hard surface. Filmed through several layers of glass, the raindrops splash on a concrete floor in a gray monochrome of seemingly exquisite simplicity. Delightfully conveyed by candy wrappers appearing for exactly three frames each, the hundreds of tiny raindrop splashes dancing across the screen constitute another choreographic tour de force. As does Escalator (2001), which recreates a desolate scene from security footage showing an empty London escalator, near Charing Cross Bridge, where a gang had robbed and killed a commuter. Demand’s images are often imbued with the distant memory of violence or calamity. The scene is life-like, yet also dream-like and remote, one almost forgets that the escalators are moving: one is going up, and the other is going down, and they are made of paper.
Thomas Demand: Animations is a collaboration with the Des Moines Arts Center.
Thomas Demand (born 1964) has been the subject of one-person exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, and he has represented Germany at the Venice Biennale and the Bienal de São Paulo. Demand lives and works in Berlin.
Pacific Sun, 2012
© THOMAS DEMAND, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/CARCC, Ottawa