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Thomas Demand: The Stutter of History

Curated by Douglas Fogle

Thomas Demand has spent the last two and a half decades bringing together 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. Bringing together 80-100 photographs, films and wallpapers that span the arc of his career, the exhibition Thomas Demand: The Stutter of History provides both an overview of the artist’s way of seeing the world as well as a lesson in how we might approach the onslaught of historical events that we consume through the world of images.

Demand’s 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. Before completing his MFA at Goldsmiths College in 1992 Demand studied with the sculptor Fritz Schwegler at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf who encouraged him to explore the expressive possibilities of architectural models. He originally took up photography as a way to document his ephemeral paper reconstructions of everyday objects but quickly turned the tables and began making these constructions for the sole purpose of photographing them. This became the basis of his entire artistic practice. After choosing his source images, Demand uses colored paper and carboard 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. The key to understanding the work of Thomas Demand is the feedback loop between the actual historical world that we inhabit, photographic documents of that world from the media, and Demand’s sculptural recreations of those images that he relaunches back into our world as large-scale photographs. The stutter of history lies in that strange gap between the world that we inhabit and the recreated world of paper and cardboard that the artist conjures in his studio.

Thomas Demand: The Stutter of History focuses on four important areas of Demand’s work that can be summarized as Uncanny Histories which will focus on his large-scale photographs of seemingly banal but historically significant anonymous scenarios; Mysteries of Everyday Life which features his smaller scale Dailies, works constructed from images taken with his phone; The Architectonic Impulse in which we see Demand use wallpaper that he creates in order to give his photographic and sculptural practice a spatial and architectural dimension; and Images that Move which focuses on his explorations of stop-motion filmmaking.



Thomas Demand: The Stutter of History consists of approximately 70 works, many of them very large scale, spanning the photographer’s entire career and including current production. The exhibition also features films and wallpapers, as well as photographic prints.


Accompanying the exhibition, the English-language catalogue The Stutter of History has been produced in collaboration between the artist, art director Naomi Mizusaki, and Demand’s longtime publisher MACK. The catalogue contains a curatorial introduction by Douglas Fogle, an essay by the art historian Margaret Iversen, and an original prose fiction piece by the Scottish author Ali Smith, inspired by one of the artist’s photographs.
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