Thomas Demand: Pacific Sun
The work of German artist Thomas Demand (b. 1964) achieves a disquieting balance between the convincingly real and the strangely artificial. Initially a sculptor, Demand first took up the camera to record his ephemeral paper constructions. In 1993 he began making constructions for the sole purpose of photographing them. Starting with an image culled from the media, Demand builds a full-scale model using colored paper and cardboard, photographs the scene, and destroys the model.
Pacific Sun—made in Los Angeles while Demand was a Scholar in Residence at the Getty Research Institute—derives from security-camera footage, circulated via YouTube, of the chaos inside a cruise ship weathering a storm in the South Pacific: chairs, tables, bottles, cartons, and people careened as the ship lurched. Intrigued by these complex movements, Demand decided to re-create the video, minus the people, by constructing and animating a life-size paper model. The soundtrack, created after the film’s completion, evokes tumbling objects and the rolling sea. Pacific Sun is an ambitious and provocative work examining society’s willing acceptance of mass-media imagery as a substitute for actual experience. Projected at full scale, Demand’s film immerses viewers in a moment that, while seeming familiar, is totally fabricated.
Image: Thomas Demand, Pacific Sun, 2012, video, 120 seconds, stereo (production still), LACMA and The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, purchased jointly with funds provided by Karen and Nathan Sandler, J. Ben Bourgeois, Terri and Michael Smooke, Jim and Laura Maslon in memory of Bernie Harris, the Modern and Contemporary Art Council Fund, the Modern Art Acquisition Fund, and the Ralph M. Parsons Fund. © Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/ARS, New York. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.