Adbusters might be a name chosen by an organization and magazine, but it’s since entered common vernacular as a term for the anti-consumerist subversion of the intrusive advertising that’s impossible to avoid in daily life.
This is the realm of Vermibus, the anonymous Berlin-based artist with multiple series of adbusting work involving the temporary removal of glossy posters for reworking with solvent. The once airbrushed figures of models become melted and ghoulish — as do the logos of the brands — and are then returned to their original locations on bus stops and billboards.
If we no longer see the sanitized perfection that lines public space due to its ubiquity, we’ve still internalized the imposed beauty standards. Vermibus’s altered images stand out not only because of their deviation from the norm, they also reveal something honest both about ourselves and about the industry they mock. Ugliness exists, and it’s the internal ugliness of greed and corporate desensitization, not physical ugliness, that is manifested in these altered images. As brands have become more important than people, it’s up to artists and activists like Vermibus to ask us to take a better look at ourselves.