The Complete Papers // Thomas Demand
In the constant attempt to refer to the world a form and a gaze capable of producing orientation, photography has occupied a central role since its birth.
The peculiarity that most of all has led to meticulous research on the photographic medium is its possibility to manipulate images and redefine in this sense new concepts of reality, starting a critical process that starting from the subject-world, develops the language up to sanction a real autonomy of the image and the language itself.
The work of Thomas Demand has made manipulation and perceptive fiction a practice through which to create images whose profound formal ambiguity, oscillating between the impression of aseptic documentation and technical artifice, leads back to a representation of the world and its surfaces ordinary that undermine the idea of the photographic medium as a documentation and storytelling tool.
Demand’s manipulations are not related to the post-production of a click. The author, in fact, creates real models in which he reproduces scenes and environments linked to the collective memory and connected to episodes of history, constituting a process that uses the photographic act as the last gesture of a complex relationship that involves disciplinary practices of architecture and sculpture.
The disturbing nature of Demand’s work for which it is possible to refer to the impression of a Kafikian tension, as well as the author’s decision to destroy the models once they have been digitally reproduced, make the images of this author something unique, the authorial expression of a poetic truth that is able to rework the rational aesthetic and narrative characterization of a specific place, making new readings for this.
The work of Thomas Demand, therefore, cannot be identified under the category of mere photography. It would not be correct to speak of him in purely photographic terms, nor to read his practice with this meter. Demand is first and foremost a sculptor of ambiguity, whose meticulous reproduction of the real, whose astonishing ability to reproduce the details of places simultaneously links it to many disciplines in order to produce the impression and the story of a specific place, often impressed in the collective and historical memory, but at the same time of a general quality of the real, whose ideal, bureaucratic surfaces are shown in all their disquieting expressive distance, a character strongly accentuated also by the total absence of the human figure.
Those reproduced by Demand are structures that tell themselves, the photographic medium, the documentation, are only the two-dimensional proof of a process which amplifies and problematizes the reading of the formal structure of an economically flawed contemporaneity in which the specter of an eternally present capitalism becomes skin, formal procedure, attitude, argument, aesthetics.
Reproduced through lying and presented to the public as a question before which personal conscience and historical identity are called to participate emotionally, Demand’s works ask for a particular listening that sees us slowly, image by image, elaborating a doubt with respect to narratives proposed to us by the political and economic set-up that in the regulation of the architectural and bureaucratic expression fails to report a warmth.