Berliners may have already seen in the streets or in the subway stations of the city intriguing advertisements that are not as they seem. Berlin based artist VERMIBUS regularly collects advertising posters from the streets, using them in his studio as the base material for his work. There, a process of transformation begins. Using solvent, he brushes away the faces and flesh of the models appearing in the posters as well as the brand logos. Once this evolution is complete, he then reintroduces the adverts back into their original context, hijacking the publicity, and its purpose.
The act of erasing the images with solvent is similar to that of painting, but it is the opposite. The process is the same, but it is not adding colors to a canvas to create an image, it is removing the colors of an existing photographic image to create a new image and new characters. The models of the adverts mutate. Some look like ghosts or mummies, some are reminiscent of Francis Bacon’s paintings, or some of tribal make-up.
This process evokes voodoo art which uses human elements like hair, or teeth to create anthropomorphic sculptures. In this context, VERMIBUS uses “glossy paper” as his flesh to manipulate. There is something very organic about the emaciated creatures that emanate from the billboards. The impersonal and sanitized perfect bodies have turned into shadows or mummies that have much more presence and singularity.
By using the advertising space and how the human figures are represented in that space, VERMIBUS is removing the masks that we wear and is criticizing advertisement, which takes away a person’s identity and replaces it with the identity of the brand.
VERMIBUS’ art begins and ends in the street, which plays an essential role in his process. People stop, stare, are intrigued, take photos. Publicity adverts show perfectly chiseled bodies and faces like in early ancient Egyptian art. By manipulating the image through removing the flesh of his subjects, VERMIBUS dehumanizes those figures that were already depersonalized, but he is, in fact trying to find the aura of the individual, the personality that was lost. The posters and models that were once so banal, are not so trivial anymore. People notice them, and stop to look at them. They are not part of the background anymore; they stand out in the public space.