«Bringing the dance of the world to rest»

Absorption and theatricality in the work of Thomas Demand

By Thomas Oberender

The connection between Thomas Demand’s photographs and the world of theatre does not seem obvious at first glance. According to a simple understanding of theatre, people act out on stage what other people are doing. At various times, people have also impersonated gods or animals on stage, in some cultures river spirits, ancestors or plants, and even robots have appeared on stage as humanoid beings for the first time, but the fact that people in the theatre almost always show people and only what concerns people has been an established habit in Europe for a good 200 years.

But the only thing Thomas Demand’s pictures do not show are people. Instead, they show interiors, urban spaces, occasionally natural spaces, a grotto or a forest. The settings lie open before the viewer, and you can see how people have disrupted the order of things in these spaces, scattering piles of paper on the floor or filling a tub with water, but there is no trace of the people themselves in the pictures - no dirt, no lipstick on a glass, no writing on the notes or books, no logo on the blue cream jar. It is as if the things in these photographs are living their own lives. The doorbells have no names, Demand shows a world without us.