itself becomes a secondary, almost superfluous element. Atthe extent that one could even wonder whether it waseffectively built or not.Lets go back for a while to that which seems to be the labelof photography: the “real”, or the “more real” if it iscompared to other tools. It can be argued that this “real”lies in the relation
that photography has with the thingportrayed: thus with reality itself. this relation is witnessed,and therefore strengthened, by the extraordinary capabilitythat this medium has to represent a subject in the mostnatural and vivid way. The architectural Photographs, whichare at the same time an index and an icon since they are aperfect
of the artefact (the subject indeed isnormally supposed to be recognisable), the relationPhotography-reality appears to be very close and, to someextent the closest possible (if we do not countcinematography). That’s what distinguishes photographyfrom the other tools and gives it a role of supremacy.Barthes argues that when looking at a photography(contrary to other forms of imitation such as painting andsculpture for example) one cannot deny that the “thing”portrayed has been there,
. Photography imposesthe existence of its subject, it is a “certificate of presence”.Or rather of “presence in the past” as Pierce suggests bysaying that the only thing that one can effectively expect tobe real is the very moment in which the referent and thecamera got in touch.But what happens when, as in the previously mentionedcase (where the photographs resemble the renderings), thepresence of the thing portrayed (the building) becomes asecondary, almost questionable element? What happenswhen we find it difficult, if not rather impossible, to identifywith absolute certainty the indexical track: the referent? Onthe one hand we have the building itself, whose existencebecame doubtful. On the other hand we have got therenderings, a medium that in its own definition is asimulacrum: a copy without the original, a “
sign whichdissimulate that there’s nothing”.
In this case the relationphotography-referent, on which the “real” claimed byphotography is based, seems to vanish, but not for this thephotographs appear “less real”. At this point it becomesright to ask ourselves what is the possible further essenceof this real, and where it is supposed to be found.A certain difficulty in recognizing a real photographicreferent is also one of the premises on which T. Demand’swork is based. He conducts a deep analysis of the mirroringeffect of photography, and through elaboratemetamorphoses of scale, dimension, medium andmateriality, he manages to reveal the very nature of thephotographic medium, which turns out to be
fictious and ghostly.
Demand manages to prove that by the time an image of anevent gets to us we are far downriver from its source,
If we consider its etymology of the word real "relating to things"(esp. property), from O.Fr. reel, from L.L.
"actual," from L.
Simulacra and simulacrum
whatever it was and, in doing so, he throws into doubt thetraditional role of photography as a faithful transcriber of the world.Specifically Demand’s approach centers on “found” imagesthat relate to scenes of cultural or political relevance, whichhave come to our attention through the mass media. Theartist than proceeds to reconstruct the spaces portrayed inthe photographs by means of a cardboard model that hepersonally builds in his studio. Than he captures the sceneagain, photographically, from a personal angle and in apersonal light. These photographs are the end product of his work, theyresemble the pre-existing mass-media images, but whatthey actually show are the three-dimensional, life-sizedmodels that Demand builds in his studio. At first sight theartist’s photographs look perfectly real (in the sense thatthey seems to have a “direct relation” to the scene of thepre-existing images) but, upon careful observation of thescene represented, one can spot some mysterious anddisturbing connotations, whose revelation, all of a sudden,destroys the illusion of reality created by Demand’spictures and reveals a rather surreal and artificialatmosphere.A typical “disturbing connotation” is the lack of details, aneffect that Demand obtains through the use of thecardboard reconstructions. The models indeed allow theartist to manipulate and guide the process of perception of his photos: on the one hand he manages to prevent thespectator from being “distracted” by the seductiveproperties of the photographs (which are its very details).On the other hand he succeeds in creating a perceptualshort circuit that overturns the spectator’s definition of reality and causes him to question himself about the natureof the images: for instance among the original and the onereconstructed according to fanciful, communicative vision,which is to be considered the more real? Demand somehowplays with what Barthes calls the
: a detail whoseperception is not immediate, since it requires a deeperinvestigation of the image on the part of the viewer, but if he manages to find it (its revelation is not granted althoughthere can be many “punctums” in a single picture. Thecapability to find one or many of them depends on thesensibility and on the culture of the perceiving subject) hisattention is caught, and a kind of empathy (or a feeling of rejection) with the picture is created. By removing thedetails (all the other possible punctums) Demand creates asort of “universal punctum” (which is the very lack of details) that can be perceived by anyone and that causesthe same effect in all the viewers.
R. Barthes, in
, (p43) describes his approach to aphotography and he says:
”before I scan the photo, I hear what it has to tell me since the photo speaks”
(social condition, historicaltime etc)
“that is the studium and this goes on until I meet a punctum: a detail, i.e. a partial object, that has the power toattract me or distress me, but anyway it has the effect to changemy viewing of the photo”.