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Photography, Trace, and Trauma$
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Margaret Iversen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226370026

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226370330.001.0001

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Invisible Traces

Invisible Traces

Postscript on Thomas Demand

(p.100) 7 Invisible Traces
Photography, Trace, and Trauma

Margaret Iversen

University of Chicago Press

Demand’s practice of photographing three-dimensional models of photographic documents is supposedly aimed at subverting notions of photographic indexicality and automaticity. Michael Fried, for instance, views Demand’s elaborate procedure as a way of distancing the image from any referent. The artist’s paper constructions guarantee that every aspect of the photograph is through and through intentional and this, in turn, ensures its status as art. The counter argument proposed in this chapter attempts to explain why the vast majority of Demand’s photographs concern some traumatic historical event or site. It is suggested that his work explores how technology, including mass media coverage of atrocities, has invisibly impinged on us, damaging our capacity for authentic experience and memory. The argument takes up Walter Benjamin’s “The Storyteller” for an account of contemporary art practices which aim to produce experience retrospectively under today’s social conditions.

Keywords:   Walter Benjamin, Thomas Demand, experience, Michael Fried, mass media, memory, photography

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