Thomas Demand shows German Images in Berlin

Thomas Demand: 'Badezimmer / Bathroom', 1997, C-Print / Diasec, 160 x 120 cm (c) Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

The German Nationalgalerie in Berlin shows 'National Gallery': 40 photo works by Thomas Demand featuring German (fake) images.


Demand developed a universe of fake media images: He chooses mass media images with a specific political or mass media background. Then he removes all people and written references. Afterwards he builds life size models of these motifs from paper and cardboard. Finally, he takes photos and destroys the paper models.


That way he questions the credibility of photo image and challenges our collective image knowledge. He says 'If I ask somebody, say in Argentina, about the tunnel in which Lady Di's accident happened - he has immediately a certain image about it in his mind without having ever been there.'


My favorite Demand piece is 'Badezimmer / bath room' of 1997 depicting a view of the bathtub in which the German provincial governor Uwe Barschel committed suicide in 1987 under mysterious circumstances.


Some of his photos remind me about the motifs of Luc Tuymans' paintings. Many of them have a scary aura and background. But not all of them: For 'Studio' of 1997 he reproduced the TV studio of a popular 1970s TV show in Germany. For his generation a collective childhood memory.


It is hardly possible to decode Demand's works without knowing the stories behind the images. Nevertheless, it is also interesting to try to figure it out before you read the labels.


Thomas Demand, Studio, 1997. C-Print / Diasec, 183,5 x 349,5 cm. © Thomas Demand, VG Bild Kunst, Bonn 2009

In the exhibition there are texts by the German writher Botho Strauß for each piece. He tries not so much to explain Demand's story of the image - he rather tries to create space for new interpretations of it.


The show is not a retrospective - it is about German images. However much of his work is about German issues anyway. The messy office room of the work 'Büro (office)' shows an office in the headquarter of the GDR's secret service Stasi raided by protesters after the fall of the Berlin wall.


Thomas Demand: 'Büro / Office'. C-Print / Diasec, 1995, 183,5 x 240 cm. © Thomas Demand, VG Bild Kunst, Bonn 2009

I think Demand's 'National Gallery' is an excellent show to celebrate the 60th birthday of the Federal Republic of Germany and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.


by Chris Neuschler



Thomas Demand: 'National Gallery' at the German Nationalgalerie in Berlin from 18 September 2009 through 17 January 2010



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