Thomas Demand

Date : 1994

Medium : Photography

Size : 96 x 175 cm

C-Print, diasec and plexiglas

Demand plays on the perception of the viewer, by taking the objects out of the three-dimensional world and placing them in the two dimensions of photography By using this technique, the artist is questioning representation, reality, documentation and the imaginary, transience and permanence.

© Adagp, Paris, 1994

The guide

Look closely at this photograph. Nothing could be more ordinary than a desk. It is obvious, because “Desk” is also the title of this work by Thomas Demand.

However, this highly familiar environment is disturbing.

Why? Because it is far too tidy. Nothing is out of place on the desk: no paper, pen, eraser, paperclip or calendar. There is no trace of human presence, no words or signs. We might think that the space has just been cleaned! It is perfect, reduced to what is essential. Everything is ready for immediately getting to work.

Perfect, really? Let’s move closer. The edge of the desk is irregular and we notice a break in the material in the foreground. That which seemed to be wood turns out to be cardboard. At this point we become suspicious. It’s true, we are standing before a photograph of a model.

Demand builds full-scale models from cardboard and paper in his studio and photographs them. He creates clean but complex compositions that seem real. Notice, for instance, the subtle play of light.

Is he a model builder or a photographer? It is the image that interests the artist, and the relationship between fiction and reality it creates. Should we believe what we see or take what we believe we have seen at face value? Thomas Demand compels us to remember that a photograph shows us a record of reality, not reality itself.

These visual traps disrupt our perception. Are we in a real or invented space? Is anything real?