Interview with German artist Thomas Demand about his work and method. Somewhere between sculpturing and photography, Demand’s pictures open new perspectives on reality and how we experience it.
Even though he uses photography, Thomas Demand (b. 1964) does not regard himself as a photographer, but rather as a conceptual artist. Very often a known image – published for example in a newspaper – is the starting point of Demand’s creative process.
Taking the image as a point of departure, he then builds a three-dimensional model of it, very often using cardboard, adding or leaving out details present in the original picture. Then, Demand documents these sculptures through photographs, in the end destroying the sculpture, so that the photographs are the only thing left. Thus, in Demand works, reality is transformed several times. In the interview Demand explains his thoughts behind this method. In reality, Demand argues, all our memories are shaped by adding things and leaving others out.
Like in literature, pictures do no have to resemble the complexity of the real world, in order to be true. Even though very often using images from the world of politics and society, Demand does not regard himself being a political artist. My pictures, he states, have to speak for themselves.
Thomas Demand was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner. The conversation took place during the “Two Days of Art”-festival in May 2012 at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.
Music by: Trentemøller
Produced by: Martin Kogi & Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2013
Supported by Nordea-fonden
Thomas Demand is a German sculptor and photographer. He currently lives and works in Berlin and Los Angeles, and teaches at the University of Fine Arts, Hamburg.
Thomas Demand is known for making photographs of three-dimensional models that look like real images of rooms and other spaces, often sites loaded with social and political meanings. He thus describes himself not as a photographer, but as a conceptual artist for whom photography is an intrinsic part of his creative process. Having studied sculpture under Fritz Schwegler at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf alongside Katharina Fritsch and Thomas Schütte, Demand began his career as a sculptor. In 1993, he began to use photography to record his elaborate, life-sized paper-and-cardboard constructions of actually or formerly existing environments and interior spaces, and soon started to create constructions for the sole purpose of photographing them. The photograph he takes of this model with a large-format-camera is the final stage of his work, and it is only this image, most often executed in an edition, of six that is exhibited unframed behind Plexiglas, not the models. On the contrary, Demand destroys his “life-size environments” after he has photographed them. One notable exception is his large scale model for Grotto (2006), inspired by a postcard of a Mallorcan grotto Demand has never visited, which was later exhibited. The life sized models are highly detailed, yet they retain subtle but deliberate flaws and anachronisms, such as an unnaturally uniform texture; according to art critic Michael Kimmelman, “the reconstructions were meant to be close to, but never perfectly, realistic so that the gap between truth and fiction would always subtly show”.
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