In the world of advanced capitalism and mass consumption, it became increasingly important to notice how lifestyle became the new identity marker. Commodities and consumerist goods became essential for the processes of identity formation and it became clear that products are not only there to serve our needs, but also express who we are and how we want to be seen by the others. Through branding projects, companies developed sophisticated ways of selling lifestyle through their products, manipulating consumers’ needs and selling them the ideal image of what they want to be. Over time, advertising and media campaigns became ever more refined, making it impossible for consumers to decipher the ideology behind the marketing. Perhaps more than any other, fashion industry had an immense influence on the creation of versatile lifestyles, offering a world of choices for individuals to express their identities, but also making the people constantly compare themselves to others, and most importantly to the images of others. Fashion industry through fashion advertising delivered prevailing ideals of physical attractiveness, imposing specific standards and overthrowing the idea of individual beauty for the sake of manufactured perfection. In reaction to those imposed standards of bodily beauty, Berlin-based artist Vermibus developed a distinct creative approach, aiming to unmask the messaging behind fashion advertising. Although fashion industry has been an occurring inspiration for Vermibus, it can be said that his last project titled Unveiling Beauty brought his critique of the fashion world to new heights.
Vermibus Unmasks Fashion Industry
The Unveiling Beauty series is Vermibus’ largest, most complex and most challenging project to date and it is probably one of the most important milestones in his ongoing fight against constructed and dictated standards of beauty. Critique of branding, fashion industry, and fashion advertising is a key aspect of Vermibus’ work. Primarily working in the field of ad-busting, culture jamming or subvertising, Vermibus found a perfect way to coopt the messaging found on fashion posters, turning the advertisings against themselves and diverting the intended path of communication from receiver to the sender. Using only solvent, Vermibus brushes away poster layers and facial features of the models, uncovering what lies under their make-up coating. The alterations he makes on the original photos distort the looks of the models and at the same time, somewhat ironically, these grotesque, zombie-like creatures come to bear more individual qualities than before, envisioning a different aspect of beauty that emanates from beneath the surface. Throughout his work, Vermibus challenges the way we perceive the oppressing figures of beauty, unveiling the constructed and artificial nature of physical attractiveness, found on retouched fashion photographs. Vermibus does not only deconstruct the imposed beauty standards, but also the complexity of ideological mechanisms that define consumerist culture.
Unveiling Beauty Series of Public Interventions
After his notable projects Unmasking Kate and Dissolving Europe, Vermibus engaged in his most extensive series of public interventions so far. The Unveiling Beauty took place last September along the circuit of most influential Fashion Week events, popularly known as the “Big Four”. Through a series of interventions in New York, London, Milan, and Paris, Vermibus aimed to address the issues of beauty-cults, at those very same venues where they are being created and established. The idea for the project was to subvert the fashion marketing schemes that follow these large-scale shows and contemplate on the exploitation of human bodies in marketing strategies. Explaining the goal of his Unveiling Beauty series Vermibus stated: The beauty-cult is as firmly established on the catwalks of every Fashion Week as it is in the advertising they generate. The fashion industry uses the body as a tool in order to sell products which is to a certain extend the paroxysm of consumerism. The image of the body in advertisements limits and oppresses an individual’s true beauty, concealing it behind the false rhetoric of its own liberation. Particularly interested in a relation between consumerism and imposed beauty standards, Vermibus presented the citizens of four fashion capitals with a different notion of beauty, forcing them to rethink their own consumption practices and reflect on the beauty ideals that are being served to them in form of public adverts.
First Stop – New York City Fashion Week
Working with the support of OPEN WALLS Gallery, Vermibus began his journey in New York. In just a few days, the artist installed numerous posters on the bus shelters and advertising boards, challenging the atmosphere of glamour and consumption, a byproduct of Fashion Week craze. While one notion of beauty was being established on the catwalks through sensational and glossy high-fashion models, the artist offered juxtaposed vision in the form of distorted, dissolving figures, sending the powerful message to the passersby. The images below provide an insight into Vermibus’ work in New York, so scroll down and enjoy the first part of the Unveiling Beauty series.