In observing Room, and other works by Thomas Demand, one experiences a twofold viewing process. First, the strange physicality of the photograph’s subject is recognized as paper construction (the photograph’s link to reality is disrupted). Second, the uncanny image’s potential real-life source material comes into question (reality remains a central part of Demand’s complex and layered equation).
In Room, the specificity with which the image is constructed encourages one to question the image’s source, real or fictitious. As though taken at night with a flash, the image appears to be journalistic: the recording of a space following an event that has left it destroyed. We assume that the image must be linked to narrative; its documentation must be merited.
Demand engages our collective memory, sends chills down our spines, and compels us to reconsider photography’s role in depicting reality when we learn that the image is based on an actual historical photograph, from which Demand recreated his paper set, of the abandoned Nazi headquarters in Wolfschanze, after the July 20, 1944 attempt on Hitler’s life.