Video Weekly Programme #1

“Looking for a Superhero”

by Teodora Jeremić

Superhero: a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers.
also: an exceptionally skillful or successful person.

In other words, Superheroes are a group of individuals with tremendous amounts of power who decide, mostly on their own, to become agents of good and act on the behalf of the public. In democracy, at least a well-functioning one, existent institutions should be the ones practicing working for the benefit of people. But, that is the thing with Superheroes- they wouldn’t get off the ground if there is nothing to do. They took upon themselves the role of protectors or fighters, exactly because they’ve seen some failure going on.

That’s why the superhero comic genre rose to prominence during the 1930s and became extremely popular in the 1940s worldwide. Due to the overall uncertainty, especially in sensitive times of ravages during the Great depression and oppressive and brutal war, vulnerable and frightened people created these Übermenschen to fight against evil, for masses yearning to breathe free. Even afterwards, waves of increased turning to Superheroes, usually coincide with disturbing and stressful periods in history. Stressful times make people want heroes.

Yet, nowadays (being both contemporary world as well as the current state of emergency) we are not very fond of the idea of any type of “saviour” for we learned throughout history, that being “saved” usually comes with many threats and consequences. So, naturally, the new question is do we really need Superheroes anymore?
It is common that superheroes have an orphan status, status of an “abandoned” one, but that position of an “outsider” actually highlights the crucial: “We are all alone. We fight our own battles, make our own rules, defy those who would destroy us.”[1] If so, do we look for an external “hero” anymore? Do we trust anyone enough, to let them save us? Could that possibly be that we simply overgrown old heroes, and that Batman, Superman, and Bananaman are equally imperfect as we are, capable for mistakes and fulfilled with their own fanatic ideals, so that maybe we should return to ground Zero? To Zero Hero.
After all, how do we do that? How is that one- a hero as identity, being formed and shaped? How might one form a heroic identity that is authentic and true to their society, with focus on diversity and social issues?

The chosen videos are following that idea, of releasing the useless patterns and establishing new concepts of “superheroic” and offer one possible solution. By rejecting the old heroes and uncovering their “true nature” (Požlep), via questioning spiritual and religious practice and their leaders (Pfeifer), then introducing Zero the Hero as primary hero and modifying expectations from others to ourselves (Melhus), to final recognition of genuine heroism in the everyday, in the works by Grubić and Maroufi. Heroes as individuals capable of leading a “normal” life (being miners in Grubić’s work and “true” sexual identity in the over-all identity of Safae in Maroufi’s video) but at the same time having potential for revolution, or acts considered revolutionary in a given environment.

[1] Danny Fingeroth, “Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society”, Bloomsbury Academic, 2004, 70-71

  • Mark Požlep FIREPLACE, AXE AND A BANANA-PEEL, video 8’45”, 2008

Egocentric Batman, fulfilled with his own fame, fanatically religious Superman who thinks that he is Jesus and schizophrenic, cartoonie like Bananaman with a big sexual problem. Room itself served as a platform for performance. During the performance the superheroes die because of their ideals, the last one is Bananaman, falling on an axe

  • Mario Pfeifer, CORPO FECHADO, video 40’ 30”, 2016

A healer with extraterrestrial powers, a religious ‘Candomblé’ leader, and a writer of a post-religious manifesto. In the context of “superheroic” Corpo Fechado introduces the topic of religion and beliefs, by placing spiritual leader or guide in the focus in attempt to visualize their thought process. It does not portray individual practitioners per se, but rather their role as leaders, their ideas, beliefs and discourses. The film therefore tries to seek understanding on how and if– in a non-hierarchical and non-orthodox way – faith can help a global society improve on its failures.

  • Bjørn Melhus, OMEN, video loop, 2008

In OMEN five identical, muscular men march over the globe in synchronized steps. The face of these animated characters is modeled after the artist, through which a focus on individual is being brought up, but body and costume refer to well known US superheroes like Superman. On their chests they have a circular sign – an “O” – which might be the letter “o” or the digit “zero”. A new superhero and omen of a new era. But, what is his superpower? Is this reminder that hero is zero, or he is Zero the Hero, as the primordial one, the one we all have and should look for?

  • Igor Grubić, ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, video, 17′ 26”, 2006

“The miners of Kolubara were the backbone of the Serbian economy, and produced more than fifty percent of the country’s energy demand. They began a strike in 2000 that eventually forced the Milošević government to retire. When I met these miners, I asked them about the movies they liked to watch and one of them mentioned Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire. I realized that, to me, these miners were just like the angels in his film. Of course I know the Michael Curtis film of the same title, but Angels With Dirty Faces refers to the idea that these hard-working and honest miners actually had clean hands and a clear conscience, as opposed to the dirty-handed politicians and the governing bodies who commit violence in their greed for power.” – Igor Grubić

  • Randa Maroufi, LA GRANDE SAFAE, video, 15′ 56”, 2014. Production: Le Fresnoy

The film is inspired by a character known as The Great Safae. He was a transvestite, and spent part of his life working as a domestic servant for Randa’s family, which was quite unaware of his “true” sexual identity.

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