Thomas Demand Hypermediation

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Put to rest that old hoary notion that photography has a special ontological relation to reality. In works by contemporary photographer Thomas Demand, that relation is marked as hypermediation. The image is at least three times removed from the original object. The artist [1] takes a photograph of an interior, [2] reconstructs that interior with or as a paper model, [3] shoots the model, which he then destroys. There’s no trace of the original. It has disappeared into the photographic image. It looks real, but it’s not. In its fourth mediation, shot by a visitor to the museum, you get reflections from the gallery space, as if it was meant to be photographed, adding a neat new and external dimension to the “original image.” In this particular image, Vault, mediation and hyper-mediation are brought to bear upon the Holocaust and its memory, which have been trans-mediated in art and into art.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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4 Responses to Thomas Demand Hypermediation

  1. dmseattle says:

    And the point is…?
    Sorta like Mount Everest or drinking a pint of bourbon…it’s there?

    • zjb says:

      the point is that it;s not really there. it just looks that way.

      • dmseattle says:

        Clever, but seriously, why bother? So I take a copy of a copy a thousand times over of a sonnet by Shakespeare (or a picture of ant-colony) and unless the machine is defective it’s the same sonnet (or ant-colony). Information is a non-zero sum game — that is the great thing about information. I give it to you and I still have it.

        Oh well, young folks like Thomas Demand deserve their fun so who am I to raise questions. So as long as someone will buy the print and enjoy it, that is all that matters. Everyone is employed. What he is doing seems harmless. You get to blog about it; I get to comment. What’s not to like about art?!

      • zjb says:

        thanks for the critical pushback, but i’ll give Demand the benefit of a doubt.

        first, because it makes a serious intervention into photo theory, which has traditionally privileged the “direct” relation between an object and an image in photography.

        second, i’m not unconvinced that Demand’s photographic work illuminates the working of consciousness, and the transformation of sense impressions into memories and other kinds of image work, and the way consciousness moves away from objects directly perceived.

        I like too what you say about copies, but here I think the point is the opposite. It’s not the same thing no matter how much the copy might seem to mimic the object and how much the copy might seem to mimic the previous copy.

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