There is a certain mystery about the way we are born, and how a fertilized egg can develop into a fully developed baby, when it comes out that is. If Superheroes were real, they would have to be born too and if they were to be born, they had to be foetuses too.
Alexandre Nicolas, who works on symbols and myths, uses material from popular culture to translate them, interpret them embezzle and present them in the form of sculptures. These sculptures can shock you, gross you out, or get you to think. I would like to choose the later, when I look at his latest ‘Superheroes as foetuses’ series. A lot has already been written about the sculptures and many bloggers have found the sculptures to be disturbing, pointless or gross. These are the feelings that an artist usually tries to evoke, and when an artist makes you feel an emotion, he or she has succeeded in his job.
Thus, Alexander succeeded in evoking a range of negative feelings among a lot of people by presenting superheroes in their foetus-forms, all dressed up in their costumes. A superhero’s archetype has long existed across human cultures and as Carl Jung would have seen it, a superhero is someone who is not vulnerable, and someone who protects the environment he finds himself in.
Alexandre seems to question this very basic notion of a ‘superhero’ by presenting various superheroes from modern popular culture in their foetal forms. A foetus cannot be a superhero, for it is controlled by its environment in every possible manner. It finds itself in a nurturing environment in a mother’s womb, where it has to grow, and needs the constant support and help from its mother.
This help ranges from being fed, being helped to breathe, excrete and practically being helped to exist. Without a conducive environment in its mother’s womb, a foetus is as good as dead. These sculptures of Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Catwoman, Silver Surfer, The Thing and The Incredible Hulk might evoke feelings of disgust, horror, or pointlessness. These are the very same feelings you would feel when you saw a dead foetus lying in front of you, and a sculpture that depicts a superhero being so vulnerable, helpless and dead would make anyone cringe. Alexandre knew how to get people to think about their own unacceptable emotions and ambivalence about foetal development, birth and death, and the lack of a real superhero, in real life.
Superheroes exist in our fantasies which get translated and materialized in the form of cartoons, comics and video games. These characters that we term ‘Superheroes’ are figments of our imaginations, and our beliefs concerning what the Archetypal superhero would be like. When that archetype is challenged, or presented in a form that negates its very essence, people would experience cognitive dissonance. That is perhaps what most people experience when they take a look at these sculptures of fully clothed Superhero foetuses that are dead and preserved in spirit.
You could also take a look at other artists who have similarly questioned the archetypal Superhero through their work. This includes Superheroes Caught Off Guard, Aging Superheroes and Kult Studio’s attempt to curate Pop Culture Artwork. I would love to hear from readers what they think about the archetype of a Superhero, and why they would find it disturbing or disgusting to see their favourite Superhero in the form of a vulnerable foetus, which is in all probabilities dead.