Thomas Demand Fondazione Prada / Venice

February 18, 2008

Photography can easily fake things. In order to fake them, you have to know the subject even better than usual: you must become the creator, the primus movens. GOD BEFORE THE SEVEN DAYS. But seven days are not enough for Thomas Demand to create his Processo Grottesco, because – lets say it – God can make mistakes, but Demand can’t. The grotto took him two long years to be accomplished. After many great shows, (to mention also Comizi di Non Amore by Francesco Vezzoli in 2005) Fondazione Prada is hosting Processo Grottesco by Thomas Demand at Isola of S. G. Maggiore in Venice.

The idea of the re-enactment, re-stage is becoming a big topic nowadays. There is a need of coming back to primordial, more primal images rather than being forced to produce original yet not so original new ideas. Without prehistory there wouldn’t be cavemen. I even suspect that prehistoric inscriptions were the first movies (don’t bullshit me with the Lumiere Bros).

When you enter Processo Grottesco you start feeling like a child in front of a big aquarium. This real size cave, illuminated from the back by a strong cold white light with all the possible stalagmites + stalactites (not even one was missing!) can give you quite a feeling. Before the Big Thing there are 2 long displays showing studies and researches of the Grotto. It must have been a long journey for Demand, not only to build such a huge cave, but all the acknowledgments took probably even more than 2 years. Shall I carry on with the description or should I leave it to some Darwinist bystander? I think it’s better in order not to get insulted by the real experts…

While Processo Grottesco is emotional and colossal, Yellowcake is witty and dry. Essential in their presentation, the photographs stand out for their subtle political aspect and for their ‘sad story’. Demand re-staged the offices of the Nigerian embassy in Rome, located in an ex fascist building, after being robbed and messed up by the burglars. Obviously the story is more complex than that.

The Niger uranium forgeries refers to falsified classified documents initially revealed by Italian intelligence. These documents depict an attempt by the regime of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to purchase yellowcake uranium from the African country of Niger during the Iraq disarmament crisis.

On the basis of these documents and other indicators, the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom asserted that Iraq had attempted to procure nuclear material for the purpose of creating what they called weapons of mass destruction, referred to as WMD, in defiance of United Nations sanctions. Yellowcake, a mixture of different uranium oxides and other uranium compounds, is a product of an intermediary stage in the production of enriched uranium for use in a nuclear reactor or a nuclear weapon.

Even though the affirmation was based on false intelligence (Italian and French secret services and CIA were involved) and people were informed after a few months, nobody dares to talk about it or even to mention it. Everybody forgets.

The interesting aspect about these pictures is the calculated realness of them. You wouldn’t guess those are model all made in paper: paper ashtray, paper table, paper pencils, drawers, elevator, doors, EVERYTHING entirely cut and glued together. The wittiness of all this stands in how real fake things can be, and that art-works can witness a historical – political event better than daily news. Overall I am utterly surprised by the brave artistic choices of Fondazione Prada, also thanks to Germano Celant’s presence. Miuccia Prada is not only putting a lot of effort and energy in her art projects – she takes her own risks by showing strong social-political statements.

So if you feel like a good trip to the Dolomiti, don’t bother go there – go to Thomas Demand in Venice, it’s far more realistic than the real cave.

Let’s face it, drinking Negroni suspended on Miu Miu platforms while watching art really pays it off!

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