Nothing is as it seems in Thomas Demand’s meticulously arranged photographs and films. Spaces that at first glance seem real and familiar—the Oval Office, a copy shop, a grotto—are, in fact, 3-D life-size environments he has painstakingly sculpted by hand from paper and cardboard. Increasingly, Demand has been experimenting with bringing those sets to life through stop-motion animation. I’m particularly curious about his Pacific Sun (below), which the artist based on a 2008 YouTube clip he saw of a cruise liner hitting rough seas. Demand reconstructed the ship’s dining room and
every object in it out of paper, then carefully plotted the choreography of flying chairs, tables, and even lemon slices as he snapped each shift of movement, frame by frame. His 100-second film, set to a commissioned score and debuting this month (through June 23) at New York’s Matthew Marks Gallery, consists of 2,400 photographs, “which means that rendering a paper cup falling off a table basically takes you a week,” he told me recently. “The complexity of movement over time is just amazing. It blew my mind.”
What began as a slapstick scene, however, evolved following Japan’s 2011 tsunami. “Suddenly it didn’t look like a funny film anymore. The context of the work changed. It had to make sense as an artwork more than as a disaster movie.”
Also, don’t miss Aaron Curry’s ambitious new show at Michael Werner in New York, where the artist will install a giant pink steel sculpture smack in the middle of the gallery, mounted with other of his works (May 1–June 23).
Illustration by Alexandra Compain-Tissier; Thomas Demand, Vg Bild-Kunst, Bonn/Ars, New York, courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery