021109: MUMOK Museum moderner Kunst: Thomas Demand – Presidency. Embassy

MUMOK Museum moderner Kunst: Thomas Demand – Presidency. Embassy Forged history The Mumok Factory is currently showing the photographic works “Presidency” (2008) and “Embassy” (2007) by the renowned German artist Thomas Demand. The small display refers to other exhibits of the 45-year old “sculptor” and photographer, whose works are currently also shown in his large solo exhibit “National Gallery” in the Mies van der Rohe building in Berlin, as well as at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. In five large-format photo tableaus, “Presidency” depicts the perfectly tidy and spiritless interior of the Oval Office at the White House. Demand offers the onlooker, similar to a guided tour, a detailed view of the centre of power. At a closer look, however, his photographs are irritating. You will detect traces of glue on the lamp, and the switch looks like it was mounted at a later stage. With these discoveries, the observer is on the right track regarding Demand’s artistic aim, as the Oval Office turns out to be a Potemkin village. Demand meticulously reconstructs the original location out of paper and cardboard, takes a photograph of his construction, and then destroys the cardboard scenery. What remains are large photographs. Demand usually finds his motives in printed media. But this time the New York Times Magazine commissioned him to present the Oval Office in the typical Demand-Method. Only five days after the 2008 elections, Demand’s installation on one of the hot spots of world power was published as the cover story in the NY Times Magazine. The photograph of Hitler’s bombed out headquarters clearly shows that Demand not only tries to satisfy his childlike pleasure in reconstruction, but also offers a certain historicity and its artistic paraphrasing. When asked about moving around inside these models he said: “when I run around in them, I somehow feel out of line. I transpose myself into a time and into a location, where I could have never really been.” Sometimes Demand plays a more active role in his happenings, as is the case in his second work “Embassy”. Here Demand documents the Embassy of the Republic of Nigeria in Rome, from where the stamp, the official seal, and the letterhead paper were stolen in 2001. Shortly after the theft, documents adorned with the stolen seal, letterhead and stamp confirming the purchase of enriched Uranium by Saddam Hussein showed up. Despite the suspicion of forgery, George W. Bush based his declaration of war against Iraq on these documents. Since no photographs of the Nigerian Embassy were available, Demand managed to get in and later reconstructed the rooms from memory. The final product “Embassy”, which comprises 9 photo tablets, creates, similar to the Oval Office, an emptied and abandoned impression of a historic site. By Susanne Rohringer MUMOK Museum moderner Kunst 1070 Vienna, MuseumsQuartier, until 29.11.09 http://www.mumok.at

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