When you step through the door into the Thomas Demand exhibition you enter a realm that was conceived, meticulously planned, and built to his exacting specifications. Demand designed every aspect of this exhibition. Having selected the photographs and films that he wanted to show in Melbourne, he then went on to design the exhibition space itself.
He was quite specific that the secondary walls had to be full height to create a sense of beautiful rooms rather than a space that has been partitioned. Once this was done he began work on the layout of the show. He carefully planned the sequence in which you would encounter each work, setting up an interesting play between the works. How we read these is an entirely individual experience. Recently someone said to me that they thought the placement of Lichtung/Clearing next to Paneel/Pegboard was an interesting comment on forest clearing and the devastating impact that pulp mills can have on the environment. Until then I had never seen those works in that way.
In conversation during the installation, Thomas explained that he was not interested in putting together an exhibition that then toured around the world. The usual practice of curating an exhibition and then ‘fitting’ it into different exhibition spaces in a number of venues holds little interest for him. So each time you see a Thomas Demand exhibition it has been curated, designed and installed for that particular space.
This is perhaps most obvious when you enter the rooms where the films are showing. From the brightly lit first room you can see through the door way into a darkened room lined with floor to ceiling curtains, but not really. What you see is a darkened room hung with wallpaper that the artist made to look like the kind of sweeping curtains that you might find in a cinema or theatre. It’s theatrical and spectacular but once you enter this space the real treat is Demands films.
Hear NGV Curators talk about Thomas Demand and his work here.
Watch the In Conversation with Jeff Wall and Thomas Demand here.