Seeing is (Dis)Believing: A Reading of Thomas Demand's “Modell/Model” (2000)

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In this commentary I interpret Thomas Demand's photographic work “Modell/Model” (2000) as undermining the strong temptation to think that when we view a photograph – a light‐capturing mechanism – seeing is believing. Demand provides a regress of models of models (recalling Plato's skeptical view of art as unknowing copies of copies) that ultimately proves unfathomable, hence, uncanny. Demand is the Socrates of contemporary art photography: here seeing is not‐knowing. What we do not know is that Demand's photograph is based on a partially erased paper and cardboard model of the scene depicted in a Nazi era photograph of a model of the German Pavilion (Hoffman, 1937) – which recalls the global ambitions of Nazism and the aesthetic connection Hitler wanted to make between neo‐classical fascist architecture and the “new man” of the Third Reich.

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