Art & Architecture Creative Writing
Assignment 1: Thomas Demand’s Pacific Sun
German artist Thomas Demand is a perfectionist. He is one of Germany’s greatest contemporary artists. If he believes that one of his photographs isn’t right, he wouldn’t think twice before swapping it with another. All his subjects are on Germany, and some of the topics that he relishes depicting through his work include political and social themes. He took thousands of individual photographs that made the frames of a hundred second video titled Pacific Sun. What drew me to the Pacific Sun is the way Demand was able to create a to-and-fro movement of objects in the middle of a perfectly still room. The crashing of tables, chairs, and gadgets gives the film a surreal look.
Demand, as described in a YouTube video titled ‘Arts.21 Thomas Demand in the New National Gallery,’ works in a complex manner. He sculpts his figures from paper and cardboard before photographing them. Once he completes his photography session of his figures, he keeps the photographs with him while his models end up in the recycling bin. He is, by interest, an inherent political artist as revealed in the video ‘Arts.21 Thomas Demand in the New National Gallery’ on YouTube. He is also interested in contemporary social issues and tries to portray them through his works.
In watching the video of Demand’s National Gallery Exhibition, it was difficult not to notice Demand’s political motivations were as significant as his artistic impulses. The various images in the video are not cohesive and represent isolated moments in time that would best be understood by a German. They seem to refer to important events or entities that were unlikely to be known outside Germany. For example, one of his works has a photograph of an office thoroughly vandalized, which is none other than an office of the East German secret police; the Stasi, soon after the Berlin Wall was torn down. To visitors other than Germans, this photograph could represent any office anywhere in the world that was burglarized or thoroughly searched.
In the photographs that comprise Pacific Sun, Demand used color papers and cardboards to construct the chairs, tables, and the counter on a cruise ship that was being tossed from one side to the other. The individual frames show chairs, tables, bottles, and cartons moving gradually and rapidly and replicate an actual security camera film a storm at sea. Demand removes the people from the original film and adds a soundtrack to evoke a sense of disbelief and abnormality to the frame. The difference between the film and the individual photographs is significant. Where the film depicts a sequence of events and movements, the individual pictures do not convey such movement and seem to be the rearrangement of items in a room.
At a glance, the objects in Pacific Sun and the National Gallery Exhibition appear to be ‘real’; real chairs, windows, tables, and so on. Upon closer examination, the items look more stylized and somewhat abstracted, particularly in those in Pacific Sun. Overall, Demand’s work impresses me as an art that is quite complex and that tries to restage reality as it tries to interpret it to his audience. Nevertheless, there is something inherently artificial about his constructions and his photographs. He is not attempting to film the real world but rather an abstraction or interpretation of the real world, and man’s contribution to it. This creates a sense of distance between the viewer and the images presented.
Assignment 2: Burden and Band
Chris Burden’s Metropolis II is quite distinct from Richard Serra’s Band. It would be easy to simply state that where Metropolis II resembles an intricate Lego built like an abstracted model of an urban environment, Band is a massive ribbon of orange-colored steel that suggests movement. Where Serra’s work is minimalist in the extreme, Burden’s is complex. There is a sense of fluidity and freedom as well as monumentality in Serra’s work that lends itself to a variety of interpretations. In contrast, the audience observing Metropolis II may find themselves standing either at ground level or on an upper deck, struck by the complexity and overcrowding of an almost overwrought urban landscape that does not in any way convey a sense of peace or monumentality.
Both works are interactive in that the viewer can walk around and through them, touch them, and be drawn into them. Having said that, the impression the audience gets from viewing Band is that they can move through time and space, while entering and leaving an imagined interior. It struck me as being similar to the emotional presence of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., which leads viewers through an ever taller enclosure that has the same tactile presence that Serra’s work presents.
Also, the audience is literally and figuratively dwarfed by Serra’s Band. Man becomes insignificant in this particular work of art. The Band can be time or space, but in every sense, it conveys a sense of movement. Similarly, in Burden’s extremely detailed yet lighter construction of elements of a futuristic city, there is also a sense of movement as the structures are linked by tunnels and highways, and these movements are emphasized by the placement of small custom designed cars.
The complexity of urban life and of man’s construction efforts are reflected in the use of multiple materials and different architectural structures. These, not only add visual interest to the exhibit, but also convey a sense of urgency to the frenzy that symbolizes urban life. Certainly, Serra’s Band is more subtle and more calming than Burden’s Metropolis II, even though it is more mysterious and enigmatic. It would be difficult not to think of the complexity of the Lego construction when viewing Metropolis II, but Serra’s structure; made of steel, seems to be much more organic because of its design.
It is for these reasons that Serra’s work; from my personal perspective, is more appealing and gratifying. It demands the audience touch it and move through its wave-like patterns. It is much more appealing than Burden’s effort at capturing a city. In hindsight, Serra’s minimalist approach is both, beautiful and compelling.
2009. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.
YouTube. 'Thomas Demand's Film "Pacific Sun" At Matthew Marks Gallery'. N.p., 2015.
Web. 13 Mar. 2015.