AboutMonika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are delighted to present the first solo exhibition of new work by German artist Thomas Demand in the UK since his acclaimed Serpentine exhibition in summer 2006. Following an invitation from the New York Times, Demand has created a timely and unnerving body of work which examines the literal and metaphorical seat of global power in the twenty-first century: the Oval Office in the White House, Washington, D.C.
The Oval Office, the official workplace of the President of the United States of America, is one of the most instantly recognisable interior locations in the world, its image a symbolic shorthand for the exercise of ideological and geopolitical will. Yet Demand's photographs, rather than capturing the original Oval Office in all its formal opulence, instead depict a meticulously recreated life-size model, fabricated from paper, cardboard and confetti. Each of the five images of this near-perfect reconstruction of the most powerful room in the world is articulated through a complex compositional language, making the reading of each photograph an aesthetically and conceptually troubling experience.
Demand's photography has long focussed on painstakingly detailed reenactments of specific and familiar places, public or private sites often loaded with social and political meanings. His models are highly detailed, yet they retain subtle but deliberate flaws and anachronisms to disrupt the viewer's comfort with the scene. This series also renders an immediately recognisable scene alien through an innovative attention to perspective and formal composition. The oval shape of the Oval Office is not usually a prominent feature of the multiplicity of images of this iconic space, yet in Demand's rendition, the eye is fascinated by it. Similarly, the viewer's expectation is that this room will be inhabited, either by politicians or actors pretending to be politicians, and that it will be experienced on a human scale and at eye level. However, Demand's Oval Office is conspicuous in its human absence, an emptiness that is heightened by the ground-level and bird's eye perspectives from which the room is viewed.