Thomas Demand: Dailies / Reviewed by Marina Ribera / 28.05.12
We all learned a long time ago that photography is not a guarantor of truth. When Thomas Demand reiterates this with his photographs of life-size models, he is in fact exposing a collapse on the twofold relationship between original and reproduction, authentic and artificial, truthful and fake. In his recent exhibition at Sprüth Magers, Demand continues the examination of these ideas with the series The Dailies (2008-11), an emphatic remark on the production process that photography represents in his work.
The images reveal life-size close up details of banal objects and scenarios from ordinary situations in our daily lives: a take-away coffee cup stuck on a mesh fence; construction materials dumped in a corner; the comb in front of the bathroom mirror or a clothes line with a few pegs on it. Taken from cardboard models that Demand has created himself, the images produce an odd effect contrasting the verisimilitude of those scenarios and the lack of humanity in them. Purposely obvious, the artist leaves small flaws in the construction of the paper models, like the cracks on glued fragments and the cartoonish flatness of colours, to stand out as markers of artificiality.
The casualness of registering a mundane out-of-order socket without any context in Daily #01 (2008) takes away any possible narrative from the scene. Instead of using ordinary life to unearth warmth and empathy from the viewer, Demand grants the image a clinical effect in which strong diagonals, grids and patterns become prominent and dominate the composition of the work. The use of a dye transfer process achieving depth of colour distances the viewer further. A saturated orange mesh in Daily #09 (2009) occupies half the frame in sharp contrast with dense black glass. The content’s truthfulness is secondary in order to highlighting the process of the fake.
The weight of the complex and intricately layered nature of the series surpasses the flippant choice of objects. If taking ordinary scenarios from reality and recreating them in cardboard models to photograph them were not elaborated enough, Demand then destroys the model to highlight the status of the photograph as the only standing object. The nature of photography acquires a different dimension altogether. Images are flattened beyond artifice. They become invulnerable to decay. The sense of control of the space and its conditions seems like a demiurge’s operation.
Photography is usually perceived as a trace, the document that registers an event. However, by purposely creating a model to be destroyed, Demand transforms photography in the event itself. Photography becomes the original sign with no reference to the external world. The life-size, physical, habitable models fuse with the flattened artificiality of the images. The two media overlap conferring a new dimension to photographs. There is no difference between original and reproduction; there is no authentic and fake. Both categories give way to something new, inaccessible and immutable.
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