Featured Artist: Thomas Demand
Words by Monocle:
Thomas Demand has made a career with photographs and films of scenarios that look real but aren’t, and which underscore the dislocation between truth and fiction. But is his work specifically German? Is there such a thing as German art? “What people project is what they see,” he says. “You can see a messy artist such as Jonathan Meese as German, or my clean-cut work as German. What might be identified as German, though, is a coherence in thought.”
Demand says German sentence structure forces this mental clarity (with verbs often at the end of a sentence, a speaker can’t begin without knowing roughly how to end). “That goes really deep into the lower part of your brain,” he says. “You have to be clear in what you want to express. Your language and speech forms your view of the world.”
He sees his country in the midst of social transition; when he was growing up in the 1970s, social class was more uniform – children went to the same kinds of schools and the post-war boom benefitted everyone. Now there are nascent class differences but he also sees that “Germany is much more open than it was even five years ago.”
What is modern Germany’s national brand?
“It’s the Verbindlichkeit [binding commitment], obvious in the German handshake. It’s relatively firm, not sweaty, and not with a second hand on top. It’s not trying to sell you something. That’s what I think is German.”