“I read the comments. I shouldn’t have read the comments, why do I read the comments”
“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ’my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” ― Isaac Asimov
In 1835, the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville wrote "De la démocratie en Amérique", it describes democracy as a system in which everyone is promised happiness, but where there is hardly any room for strong, exalted, and glorious feelings; such as pride, heroism, glory and honour. In a time where the border between politics and entertainment is challenged, social media provides a platform where one can express these feelings - more or less anonymously. One can thus form an exclusive social group, in which bigotry, racism and discrimination against others are openly expressed. Populist politics loves to play with this.
ArtistErik Vermeulengot fed up with the xenophobic comments on social media, and how the messages on that medium are becoming more and more simplistic. The Brussels attacks on March 22, 2016 were the turning point for Erik. He started looking for a way to depict the underlying dynamics of social media and populism, by collecting the comments that irritated him; he also made a private collection of the commentator’s profile pictures.Who are the people behind these vile messages? And why would these people choose, for example, a lama as a profile picture? The ignorant could maybe become human again.
By means of a coping-mechanism, Erik drew the profile pictures of the commentators he loathed. Every drawing is a portrait of the noxious innocence of the commentor. Drawing is a labor intense activity, in which concentration and focus are pivotal. These integral characteristics are seemingly opposed to the volatile character of today’s media landscape, and the transient context of commenting and the profile picture itself.
The structure of the drawing forces the spectator to look closer, and examine the process that ultimately became the image. By drawing the commentator’s profile picture Erik makes the anonymous human again, even approachable, so that their anti-intellectualism can be a subject of discussion, rather than just an object of disgust. It is this discrepancy that intrigues Erik Vermeulen. By drawing profile pictures in pencil, and making the comments objects of intense study, right at the time when it is lacking, some room for reflection is created.