The Death of the Superhero – Who Do We Believe in Now?
Clearly Superman is not going to save the day. Maybe it’s time to save ourselves. We’re our own worst enemies – why can’t we be our own heroes too?
It’s a little disappointing to think that nothing has been able to save the world from Donald Trump. Except maybe President Elect Joe Biden. And that’s debatable. With Murdoch still at large, wishing for someone to unite us all and protect the earth from global warming and other forms of Kryptonite is looking futile. What’s a world to do when politics is more powerful than hope. Where are our modern day superheroes? Mojoko (aka Steve Lawler), the founder of art collective House of Mojoko, doesn’t have the answer but he’s making damn sure that we at least ask the question.
You may have seen the larger-than-life Melting Superhero in front of the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) during the 2012 Future Proof exhibition. A collaboration between Mojoko and fellow artist Eric Foenander, the massive figure in blue tights and a red codpiece was hard to miss and even more striking for its lack of torso and head. At first glance it was comical – this gaudy, brawny mess dripping and dissolving like a giant candle. But it didn’t take long before the message was clear – No One Can Save Us. The title of the artwork sums up how even our superheroes can’t prevent us from continuing to heat up the planet and destroy our own existence.
The Death of the Superhero – Who Do We Believe in Now Written by Skye Wellington, Lens & Pen Projects
“I’m interested in creating art that is accessible,” says Mojoko. “I like that a person on a bus could ride past my sculptures and understand what I’m trying to say.” Using pop culture iconography, Mojoko is able to start a conversation with an audience quickly. “They know the conventions and stereotypes of the character. I can then use that knowledge to subvert and call attention to a subject.”
Another case in point is the Melting Ultraman. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Mojoko and Eric took this vintage Japanese character and gave it the same treatment as the original Melting Superhero and displayed it during an exhibition in Tokyo. The effect was powerful to say the least. “Here was this beloved, invincible hero and he was now reduced to a melting mess, powerless to stand up to what humans are capable of doing to our own earth,” explains Mojoko. The fact that Ultraman traditionally sources his power from a sun that could now destroy us was a bonus element that simply heightened the irony of the piece.
At face value it’s a depressing message – the decline of hope in a modern world. Mojoko’s intention is not to move us to abject nihilism though. “I’m not offering solutions to a problem. But I’m not saying that hope is dead either. By taking ugly subjects and making them approachable I’m able to entertain people and make them more receptive to an idea, to wake them up to an issue.” So maybe the themes running through his work could be framed as less zombie apocalypse and more REM-style It’s the End of the World as We Know It. Who knows what possibilities the new world might bring if we maintain hope.
Hope needs a hero though; someone to place our trust in, someone to rally behind, someone to solve problems and get shit done for the greater good. Clearly Superman is not going to save the day. Perhaps the problem is our antiquated belief in good and evil. “I love exploring dichotomies,” says Mojoko. “Living in Asia you can see a lot of duality and I use that juxtaposition in my work: old and new, yin and yang, east and west. But things aren’t black and white. It’s the clash of these things, the grey area, that I’m trying to point out. Good versus evil is a myth of our own making.”
So maybe it’s time to save ourselves. We’re our own worst enemies – why can’t we be our own heroes too?
For more information on Mojoko and to secure the limited edition “No One Can Save Us” serigraph get in touch with the knowledgeable folk at Addicted Art Gallery.