Friday, 29 April 2011



This photograph represents the most controversial art work I have so far tackled.

Heldenorgel (Heroes’ organ) looks like a huge (240 x 380cm) photo of the largest open-air organ in the world, built in 1931 in Bavaria to commemorate Germany's war dead. It plays the same piece of music at the same time every day. 

But this is not a photo of the organ, it is a photo of a three-dimensional, life-size paper replica, which took Demand ten weeks to make. He comments: '(The organ pipes)  are very fragile: half of the day I spent renovating the things I made the previous week.’ The damp German climate means the paper sometimes wilts and the glue comes unstuck. 'If I get up in the morning and see that it’s raining, I think, “Oh, man.”. 

After he has photographed his work he destroys it.

The 2011 Deutsche Borse prize of £30,000 annually rewards a living photographer of any nationality who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to photography in Europe between October 2009 and September 2010. The  short-listed artists are  currently showing at Ambika 3, the University of Westminster’s vast subterranean gallery.This work is Demand's entry – and at the moment tipped to win. 

The prize,  doesn’t go to the ‘best’ photo, which you might expect, but to the photo with the most innovative ideas behind it. It’s a contest which stirs up a rich controversy including the role of the Photographers' Gallery, the largest public gallery in Britain devoted to photography. The objectors are those who value practice over theory.

The organ looks oddly flat and unreal. This is intentional. You try to work out why and how the image was constructed. I first saw Thomas Demand's work in Rem Koolhaas's 2006 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, an ovoid inflatable canopy which seemed to float over the trees and lawns of Hyde Park like a giant setting moon. I was captivated. Inside Demand covered each room in wall paper in four colour tones: a night wall paper, a sunny mid day wall paper, an abstract winter version and one that referred directly to the exhibits. Close up the design looked artificial and abstract. It only regained its photographic appearance when seen from a distance. He claims he's not a photographer but a conceptual artist.

He's also an illusionist who challenges our illusions.

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