Thomas Demand takes sites that have been mythologized with their own stories and makes their fictional aura literal. The German artist creates weightless paper replicas of environments with social or political meaning, ranging from Whitney Houston's hotel room on the night of her death to the compound near Tikrit where Saddam Hussein was captured.
The paper environments combine banality and spectacle, showcasing the fascination with storytelling that pervades the significance of spaces. On the one hand Houston's hotel room is as boring as could be— a rumpled, stained tablecloth with a half-eaten burger and fries— hardly deserving of a second look. And yet the ominously publicized last meal, circulated by tabloids immediately after her death, the site gains an otherworldly significance, partially removed from its reality. Taken with the striking 17th century Dutch aesthetics of the space, Demand decided to create "Junior Suite."
Thomas Demand, Junior Suite
Demand makes a similar move with his paper models, capturing them on camera and then destroying them completely. In the photographs, their medium is clearly visible, preventing the models from looking fully real despite their meticulously rendered detail. The life-sized dioramas are destroyed after their image enters the world, mimicking the fleeting fascination the public has with these significant spaces.
His recent exhibition at Matthew Marks Gallery featured his most ambitious work to date, a film depicting a cruise ship caught in a storm. "Pacific Sun" took inspiration from a clip of the ship on YouTube. In the 15 month process Demand retraced each movement of the film with a paper simulacrum, from the first wave's bump to total calamity. He shifted each paper piece in the scene millimeters at a time, creating a total of 2,400 frames.
Demand's works address the general public's obsession with narrative as well as contemporary photographers' urge to separate from it. See a slideshow of the work below, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.