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"I don’t have anything to say about Whitney Houston,” Mr. Demand explained in a telephone interview. Rather, it was the way the shot itself had the quality of a 17th-century Dutch still life."
June 16, 2012 1:42 PM   Subscribe

A Remade Tabloid Image of Houston’s Last Meal [NYTimes.com] That gruesome photograph of Whitney Houston’s last supper, first posted on TMZ shortly after her death, stuck in the visual memory of the German photographer Thomas Demand. “The proliferation of that kind of image at the time when she was not even in the coffin amazed me,” Mr. Demand said. “It amazed me that it would ever have been released.” So he decided to recreate it.
posted by Fizz (38 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Platers gonna plate.
posted by zippy at 1:56 PM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's the Greatest Lunch of All.
posted by mattdidthat at 1:58 PM on June 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Doesn't take much to get coverage in the New York Times these days, does it.
posted by phaedon at 2:06 PM on June 16, 2012


I was thinking the same thing...that I have been thinking for years.

I mean, what's to talk about here? There were after all, other people in that room and maybe one of them had a beer.
posted by lampshade at 2:09 PM on June 16, 2012


"It's just terrible," said Mr. Demand, speaking through his publicist.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:13 PM on June 16, 2012


I mean, what's to talk about here?

Crap puns.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:13 PM on June 16, 2012


Weird, the writer seems to think Demand just booked a suite, ordered a meal and took a snap. This misses out the every-so-slightly important step where Demand crafts a ridiculously precise sculpture of his chosen scene with paper and card, then photographs the sculpture.
posted by jack_mo at 2:16 PM on June 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Isn't this a copyright violation?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:17 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


“It amazed me that it would ever have been released.” So he decided to recreate it.

This really is funny to me.
posted by Fizz at 2:19 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


So he decided to recreate exploit it.
posted by item at 2:28 PM on June 16, 2012


It's not right
But it's ok
I'm gonna chase pills with booze
anyway
posted by Renoroc at 2:28 PM on June 16, 2012


It bugs me that he somehow decided to use a generic can instead of a Heineken can. Really, you're going to go all melancholy over a photograph of a last meal, and then bother about trademarks?
posted by Harry at 2:30 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why did he turn the burger and frIes into what appears to be salad?
posted by Bwithh at 2:32 PM on June 16, 2012


What about the original photograph was gruesome?
posted by mr_roboto at 2:33 PM on June 16, 2012


If you think a messy dinner cart is gruesome your gruemeter may need recalibration.
posted by benzenedream at 2:33 PM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


This really is funny to me.

He'd probably deny it, but I get the sense Demand is, er, sort of performing some kind of exorcism type thing when he makes a work. The photographs of sculptures are always incredibly dull and bland, but usually turn out to be images of places with awful associations - the podium from which Milošević gave the speech that kicked off the Yugoslavia shitstorm, Sadam Hussein's compound, the oval office, &c.. and once the photograph of the sculpture is taken, the sculpture is destroyed.

Interestingly, before he focussed on politics, his earlier pieces featured scenes associated with artists, so the Whitney thing is a bit of a blend of old (personal) and new (political) Demand.

Really, you're going to go all melancholy over a photograph of a last meal, and then bother about trademarks?

He routinely removes text and images from the scenes he recreates - eg., there's a work called Büro (Office) which shows reams of Stasi documents in a room that was ransacked after the Berlin wall fell, but all the sheafs of paper are blank.
posted by jack_mo at 2:45 PM on June 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


What about the original photograph was gruesome?

The fact that images of the place where someone died were circulated for entertainment purposes?
posted by jack_mo at 2:47 PM on June 16, 2012


posted by jack_mo The fact that images of the place where someone died were circulated for entertainment purposes?

You mean like the all the other images of the places where people died and are circulated for entertainment purposes?
posted by mattdidthat at 3:00 PM on June 16, 2012


Where's the shadow? It's just food without foreshadow.
posted by Mblue at 3:07 PM on June 16, 2012


The fact that images of the place where someone died were circulated for entertainment purposes?

That's morbid, tasteless, or maybe ghoulish. Gruesome would be if her last meal was a human foot or something. Which is kind of what I expected when I clicked on the link...
posted by mr_roboto at 3:17 PM on June 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


You mean like the all the other images of the places where people died and are circulated for entertainment purposes?

Yes? ;-)

No idea why Demand was particularly disturbed by this example of the death site pic genre. He also made a rather beautiful film 'set' in a sculpture of the tunnel where Lady Diana died in a car crash, so maybe he has an interest in the way the media responds to the death of female celebrities.

That's morbid, tasteless, or maybe ghoulish. Gruesome would be if her last meal was a human foot or something. Which is kind of what I expected when I clicked on the link...

'Gruesome' doesn't necessarily imply gore, and I assumed the writer meant that the photo was gruesome by dint of the fact that it was published, not because of what it depicted (though the article is pretty crappy, so who knows if Vogel gave the matter much thought).

Also, depressingly, I'm not sure I'd've been terribly surprised if poor old Whitney's last meal had been a human foot. I suppose we're lucky she didn't develop a taste for 'bath salts'.
posted by jack_mo at 3:33 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


No idea why Demand was particularly disturbed by this example of the death site pic genre. He also made a rather beautiful film 'set' in a sculpture of the tunnel where Lady Diana died in a car crash, so maybe he has an interest in the way the media responds to the death of female celebrities.

Eh. Maybe he just likes rehashing Warhol.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:37 PM on June 16, 2012


Eh. Maybe he just likes rehashing Warhol.

I was about to say 'rehashing' was ridiculous, but, yeah... Brillo boxes, the Marylins and Jackie Kennedys, the Death and Disaster series, and you could just about argue that the blotted line technique and screenprints have something in common with the photograph of a sculpture of a photograph thing.

Still, 'influenced by' seems fairer. Or 'engaged in a dialogue with', as they say in exhibition catalogues.
posted by jack_mo at 4:03 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


grue·some/ˈgro͞osəm/
Adjective:
Causing repulsion or horror; grisly.
Extremely unpleasant.
Synonyms: horrible - terrible - dreadful - macabre - ghastly


This final supper isn't gruesome, it's banal. Publishing it was tasteless but this guy seems to be making a career of being shocked, shocked by the paparazzi he keeps copying.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:13 PM on June 16, 2012


the Marylins and Jackie Kennedys, the Death and Disaster series

Exactly. The form is different; the content is essentially the same. Not that there's anything wrong with that, though -- Warhol's ideas are, if anything, more relevant today than when he was alive.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:14 PM on June 16, 2012


Next: A video of Joan Rivers unsuccessfully trying to pull out the tablecloth, with Didn't We Almost Have it All playing.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:16 PM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I yawned.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:22 PM on June 16, 2012


The film set reminds me a lot more of Jack Goldstein.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 4:23 PM on June 16, 2012


Personally I'd prefer to have dinner with Judy Chicago.
posted by Mike D at 4:32 PM on June 16, 2012


'Gruesome' doesn't necessarily imply gore, and I assumed the writer meant that the photo was gruesome by dint of the fact that it was published, not because of what it depicted

Right, though perhaps "macabre" would have been a better word choice - the word is more specifically about the details of death and less linked to gore in people's minds (a scene can be gory without involving death. E.g. open heart surgery that saves a person's life is gory).
posted by Bwithh at 5:00 PM on June 16, 2012


Someone told me there would be a plate of beans. Where is the plate of beans?
posted by Zerowensboring at 5:03 PM on June 16, 2012


The article is pretty useless without mentioning the process used.

"Each of Thomas Demand’s photographs is one or more steps removed from reality, creating tension between the fabricated and the real. He begins with a pre-existing photograph of an actual location culled from the mass media. While his large-scale photographs resemble these mass-media images, they actually show three-dimensional, life-sized models made from cardboard and paper that Demand builds in his studio solely for the purpose of being photographed. Demand knowingly uses the traditional role of photography as a faithful transcriber of the world to throw his subject’s artificiality into doubt. This confounding of references is such that the very idea of an original recedes completely."

He never displays the actual models afaik, just the photographs or the representation of them. They're not 1:1 scaled models.
posted by notseamus at 5:09 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


this guy seems to be making a career of being shocked, shocked by the paparazzi he keeps copying.

If by 'career' you mean this Whitney Houston piece and the Diana film - the majority of his work since (IIRC) the '90s refers to historical/political imagery, his big show in Sydney this year was mostly hotel rooms and stuff he photographed himself while travelling in Australia.

The form is different; the content is essentially the same.

The form/technique/whatever is pretty similar in places too - I'm sure I've seen a Polaroid of a replica of a Brillo box and all of the early screenprints were made with well-known existing photographs - the Elvis and Liz Taylor ones were from publicity shots, he used film stills and newspaper clippings for the Marylins (I think he says in Pop or the diaries that he switched to Polaroids and photo booth strips because he was paranoid about getting sued by film studios and photographers, plus doing gallerists and living filmstars meant cash money up front).

Someone told me there would be a plate of beans. Where is the plate of beans?

In Thomas Demands studio. The plate of beans is made of paper and card and about to be photographed, so take care while overthinking it, lest you ruin the shot.

He never displays the actual models afaik, just the photographs or the representation of them.

As I said above, he deliberately destroys the models after the photographs are taken, which seems to be pretty important if you're trying to work out what his work is about.
posted by jack_mo at 5:23 PM on June 16, 2012


Words change in meaning. 'Grue' and 'gore' are in fact synonyms, although the former has fallen out of favour in everyday use. It's perfectly fine for 'gruesome' to have moved on a bit in meaning, even if its roots lie in the same pool of blood.

Me, I'd call it an edge case. "Macabre' would be better, but it tastes so archaic and louche and Vincent-Pricey these days, I just dunno.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:23 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, 'gruesome photograph of Whitney Houston’s last supper' strongly suggested 'autopsy photo' to me. The actual subject matter is a bit of a relief.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:33 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why is this even news? Seems a bit bordering on morbid celebrity worship to me.
posted by mrbill at 12:27 AM on June 17, 2012


It would have been better if she had squid, and the squid inseminated her oral cavity.
posted by the noob at 12:28 AM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is true that gruesome no longer needs to include gore. It does however have to include something more than a can of beer.
posted by DU at 2:09 AM on June 17, 2012


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