The new exhibit at the DHC Art Foundation opened on January 18th. The installation consists of the animations and photographs of artist Thomas Demand. The gallery is filled with five short stop-motion animations, as well as two floors of photographs. Demand works in at a life size scale, and in paper medium.
The DHC is located at 451 and 465, rue St- Jean in Montreal’s Old Port. In the first building the viewer is greeted by a reel to reel tape deck with a short repeating musical score that plays a haunting yet lovely tune. Finally a set of banal escalators (Escalator 2001) run up and down on the second floor. As it plays through an exposed 35 mm projector, squeaks and chugs of the machine working fills the space as the animated loop plays.
The third holds Yellowcake (2007), several images of the inside of a building, one of which is an elevator with the green ‘up’ light constantly illuminated. On the top floor the visitor is confronted with Embassy (2007). This series of photographs represent the scene of a break in at the Niger embassy in Rome that was later tied to the excuse used by George Bush for the invasion of Iraq.
The next building features a minute long animation called Pacific Sun (2012). The short re-models a youtube clip captured of a cruise ship during a storm. The details are immaculate. Each component featured is an exact replica of those in the clip, down to the straws and ketchup bottles that slide across the floor. In the same room in the opposite corner, an animation of a security camera (Camera (2007) is projected. The details are so well composed that you can even catch the reflection of the imagined floor in it’s screen as the camera does it’s rounds.
The final animation exhibited is Rain (2008). In this Demand recreates the sound and visual of rain falling. The piece is meditative and entrancing, I stayed with it for the longest of all the pieces. Each droplet is made up of individual candy wrappers, and the noise is eggs frying. It is a piece so simple in it’s concept, yet so complex in it’s construction.
Demand’s work echoes the outdated idea of art for art’s sake, in the most positive and innovative way. In the 21st century, contemporary art is too often dismissed if it does not take on a commentary or motive that addresses social or political concerns. The work Embassy does indeed do this, but the majority of the artist’s creations allow for a simpler, more accessible message. While his works have a philosophical element that questions our perceptions, they remain beautifully banal. In the case of rain we are urged to examine how we perceive the world around us. It functions as a trompe-l’oeil, as we examine what seems like such a everyday occurrence, we realize it is far from what we presume it to be. The simple fact that these realistic works are entirely made of paper is enough of a commentary in itself.
As we enter further into what is being deemed pseudo-modern times, art for art’s sake is becoming more obsolete. Unlike some, I believe that the techniques being used in new media art have the right to be explored like previous artists explored the dimensions and boundaries of painting and sculpture. It is not always necessary for art to have an underlying commentary, I feel like the honest admittance of the exploration of a medium is completely just reason for creation. Especially with the boundaries between art and science becoming more blurred, there is so much room for innovation. In this age of contemporary art, I am starting to long for more art for art’s sake.