Thomas Demand… Stuttering History

Paris’ Jeu de Paume hosts “The Stutter of History,” a major retrospective of German photographer-sculptor Thomas Demand’s work  (to May 28, 2023). The German-born artist who works in Berlin and Los Angeles, makes photographs of three-dimensional models that look like real images of rooms and other spaces.

After choosing his source images, Demand uses colored paper and cardboard to painstakingly reconstruct the spaces that they depict in three dimensions at a one to one scale. He then photographs these scenarios and subsequently destroys his models leaving behind only the ghostly photographic doppelgänger. His images may appear to depict the real world but upon closer inspection they resonate with a fragile similitude that belies the fact that they are actually photographs of his handmade three-dimensional sculptural recreations of found images culled from the media.

The subjects represented in Demand’s photographs often relate to pre-existing press images showing scenes of cultural or political relevance. The New York hotel room in which L. Ron Hubbard worked on “Dianetics,” for example, was the starting point for Zimmer (Room) (1996). “Zeichensaal” (Drafting Room) (1996) is inspired by a photograph of the studio of Richard Vorhölzer, the architect who was in charge of much urban planning for postwar Germany; “Scheume (Barn) (1997) is based on Hans Namuth’s photograph of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner in Pollock’s East Hampton studio.

Demand describes himself not as a photographer, but as a conceptual artist for whom photography is an intrinsic part of his creative process. He has spent the last two and a half decades merging his talents as both a sculptor and a photographer in an attempt to capture the uncanny stutter of history that lies at the root of our contemporary image culture.

“Le bégaiement de l’histoire,” (The Stutter of History). Jeu de Paume, Paris. To 28 May 2023