The Voters and the Politicians. Single channel video, stereo, duration 15.00 min., 2019

“People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do.”
Donald J. Trump, Art of the Deal

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the ensuing notion of ‘the end of history’, the West saw its way of governance as the only heir to the collapse of communism. In a sense, the American idea of ‘Manifest Destiny’ was given new life, only now the lands to conquer were not the western frontier, but lay beyond the former iron curtain to the east. Western liberal democracy, our way of life and our economic and cultural values and morals, became the (Western) ideal for the societies of the world, imposed by the Western military-industrial complex, the burgeoning digital networks and the cultural marketeers in Hollywood.

Following the economic boom of the roaring 1990s, the realization of (Western) vulnerability and growing insecurity after 9-11, the 2007-2008 financial crash and ensuing austerity measures, there now seems to be a momentum building for reevaluating the merits of Western liberal democracy. As the calls for genuine system change grow louder, two distinct narratives are emerging:

1. Proponents of a peaceful transition to a new sustainable, more equal and social, global society, e.g. Diem25, YouthForClimate, Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter.
2. Proponents of a return to the ever mythical 1950s with patriarchal values, clearly defined nation states and ‘clean’ ethnic populations, embodied by among others: Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Thierry Baudet and a growing Alt-Right movement.

Both camps operate within the boundaries of our democratic system, but also keep testing and pushing these boundaries. Both seem to recognize democracy as crucial, but also seek to change the current way the system works.

However, in order to change a system, you must first understand it and your own role within it. Large and complex systems are by their very nature hard to delineate, however, especially systems of governance. How do you describe a system, and in particular, how do you describe the fundamental workings of Western democracy?

This is the main question behind my most recent video, The Voters and the Politicians. Taking its outset in a personal experience – my first conscious contact with the democratic system during a political demonstration as a teenager in Denmark – I use (heavily) edited found footage of iconic political situations and archetypes, to try to construct a slightly unsettling vision of what I consider one of the most fundamental mechanisms of Western democracy: The division of people into groups, and pitting them against each other for political gain.

How this works, the language, imagery and motives behind it are touched upon from different perspectives. The Voters and the Politicians aims to discuss the complications inherent to a system in which the votes of the majority delivers power to rule over all. How then, do you acquire enough power to change a system that needs changing? And what wouldn’t you do to gain that power?

Rune Peitersen