“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
About this video
I’ve made this video installation especially for the theme exhibition Rituals (Rituelen), which took place in the autumn of 2022 at the Rietveldpaviljoen, Amersfoort.
Many human customs are encapsulated with rituals. I took a close and critical look at the rituals concerning the phenomenon of “following “. As an artist I am interested in decomposing social phenomenon’s, strip it from its general social acceptance and examine it on its true merits.
The difference between following and following
I feel more or less obliged to clarify what I mean by following within this context, because we more or less all follow and imitate, constantly, consciously, unconsciously and since the dawn of time.
Our community is what she is today because of endless replication and continuation. The public was always eager to embrace new heroes.
I make the distinction between critical following and blind following. The following I am referring to in my video is blind and fanatic. In the blind variety the critical ability kind of disappears and dedication and fanaticism gradually increases. A fanatical follower more or less surrenders his uniqueness and literally hands over his individuality and power. What consequence this may have thereafter depends entirely on the followed, to which this authority is granted to. Passionate following sounds fairly harmless, but is it really?
To follow, anno now, anno the past, anno the future.
Following, anno now, is something that literally engages masses of people on all kinds of different levels. Because it has an enormous social, commercial and economic impact, it raises the question to what extent we are slowly losing our autonomy en masse and what possible consequences are still in store for us. How will we look back on this in the future or is the future a more extreme continuation of what we are experiencing today?
I tried to make this insightful in an artistic way. I have created a compilation of video, sound and music fragments in which I have swept all types of dedicated followers together. My focus is on the follower not the followed. By means of some famous historical images from, the 2nd World War, the Cultural Revolution, some snippets from videos of influencers, fans of pop idols and some fragments from famous movies such as 1984, I would like to take you with me and show how closely related the rites concerning “fanatical” following are. A familiarity with the films, whose images and quotes I used, certainly helps in understanding my message. Irony and brutal reality, fiction and non-fiction alternate. Image and sound tell a conflicting story.
Social acceptance and adaptation.
So, in conclusion, we all like to follow. Following as an activity has undergone a transformation in the 21st century; it has now become a more abstract, elusive, extensive, and diffuse concept. It is currently unclear if and what consequences are tied to contemporary online following. Although I have this premonition that those consequences will be there, and that it will unfold very gradually and quietly. Nevertheless, as it has now turned into a widely accepted phenomenon, there is little to no resistance in society; it seems as natural as the sun emerging daily.
Meanwhile, a major social shift is taking place that is actually eluding our perception because, to a greater or lesser extent, we are all currently part of it. Whether the outcome is positive or negative, it seems to become an irreversible process; the system wherein it operates is too big as it is. Morals, norms, values, outlook on the world, fashion, trends, politics, geopolitics and even the perception of nature, everything is influenced and colored by this faceless system.
Having supporters or being supporter is now an important measure of popularity, especially for young people – it confirms a right to exist. In a strange way, it provides some kind of online communal sense, only this particular community is in addition to being powerful, rather superficial, infinite, and fickle and thrives on the delusion of the moment.
Following and peer group dynamics versus autonomy. There appears to be more polarization and divergence today than there was a few decades ago. We have all come to live in our own confirmation bubble and are increasingly less understanding of the other side. We feel safe and empowered within our group or bubble, we are known and recognized there. Decreasing tolerance and resentment of other groups is possibly a secondary effect here. Therefore, with this video I would like to make a stand for, autonomy and independent living and thinking.
Original concept and context, the introductory text for the exhibition ‘Rituals’
Ever since the invention of gods, faith and religion, man has had the need to profess and bewail himself in groups according to certain rites. The rites are various for each conviction but on closer examination there is still a great deal of overlap in our behaviours.
When that line is extended to the present we see rituals changing, disappearing and even new ones emerging. The need to follow up has not changed, but the implementation has. Following is a positive and fulfilling activity for both the follower and followed, but is that always the case? Or can it be polarizing too?
An extreme example from the 2nd World War; Hitler had many followers but history has proven indisputably that this was not the right prophet, yet he managed to affect people and drove them into ecstasy. Anyone who did not adhere to his ideology could not grasp his appeal, anyone who did, saw a saviour.
Zooming deeper into the present, following has become a daily, primarily online, occupation. You can worship multiple gods and believe in different narratives. With that, you might expect that with such a large supply of new idols, a need to follow would diminish, but nothing could be further from the truth. One might wonder to what extent, the desire to follow is at loggerheads with the gaining or preserving true autonomy. Another question that arises is; why isn’t the need for following decreasing in a world where everyone wants to celebrate diversity and individuality and what is at stake here. In my artwork or installation, I try to visualize the overlap between the worshippers and the worshipped, not the differences.
My short film entitled dedicated follower features a number of historical icons, both good and bad: such as Christ, Bhagwan, but even Mussolini, Hitler and Trump. We’ll meet the adoring fans of Michael Jackson and The Beatles as well as contemporary Influencers and I’ll take you through extracts from various cult films with a very similar message like my artwork such as: 1984 by Orson Welles, Life Of Brian by Monty Python, The Perfume by Tom Tykwer, the films Apocalypto and Passion Of The Christ both directed by Mel Gibson, The Great Dictator by Chaplin and my own footage. Image and sound provide you with a confusing mix, a mix that, if all goes well, also makes you wonder for a moment.