MAGAZINE

All Images from "We Are Not All Gods" by Thomas C. Chung

April 4th, 2019

Jesse Gussow

 

Lately in popular culture Superheroes have taken the spotlight. Marvel and Disney have created a massive following and pure excitement for their films. DC has struggled a little with their films but there is still a hunger for them. Thomas C. Chung built off this phenomena to create a stunning series titled “We Are Not All Gods”. Using knitting to recreate some of the most recognized heroes from Marvel and DC Comics. It’s a great way of showing the dilemma of gods within our real world and the contrast to comics where these people/beings are elevated to god status. The work is stunning as the details and colours just pop and look so clean. It’s a great message that works so well in today’s pop culture climate. 


Where did the idea for the “We Are Not All Gods” pieces come from?

To be honest, I’ve forgotten a little bit. Hahah. It was some years ago now when the idea first popped into my head. I was preparing for various shows when I was asked to create something for the Mdina Biennale (now known as the Mdina Cathedral APS Contemporary Art Biennale). The curatorial concept is based around the spiritual & religious so I thought, “what would best represent my thoughts” (?). 

I was watching a lot of movies at the time & found that what we ‘worshiped’ wasn’t necessarily all too different to what we admired or cherished in our everyday lives. How we then chose to find ‘a god’ we deemed worthy of praise was up for debate. I found superheroes in comic books to be an interesting segue into this conversation. I wanted the audience to be curious. Seen from a child’s perspective, it discusses the dichotomy of what it means to be iconic yet fictional in an increasingly complex world.
 


How did you decide which characters to feature?

This was very much a personal choice. The colours, the infamy of each character from each brand of comics (Marvel & DC being the most popular), what they represented up until now in society all played a huge part. I was aware of the lack of female characters in my selection simply because it wasn’t true to how we chose to elevate femininity in history, yet I’m very glad to see this change in time.   
 


What do the pieces represent in our culture?

We’ve known for a long time how complex masculinity & femininity are as topics. Entire tertiary degrees are devoted to this. Men have been told to uphold certain ways of being since they were little, whether it be by ‘being strong’, or that ‘boys don’t cry’ & that ‘being weak is for sissies’ – all of which play a role in shaping our gender as a society. Reading these comics as a kid (I couldn’t afford a lot of them so peeked at my friends’ pages) I found it enlightening to see that there were stories of vulnerability about such superheroes. 

I specifically chose knitting as a technique for these pieces to show that behind every boy, every man, every male role model, there was a softness many would hide. Having grown up with a ‘mighty mum’ I owe it to her to say that we would be nothing without their love & support. 
 


How long did it take to create the pieces?

On & off for about 6 months. The idea of combining them with hand-cut perspex crosses took some time. Initially they were to be hung on wooden crosses but I found the references to be too limiting. I liked the way the finished pieces looked – crisp & clean.
 


How do you think the world would react to a real superhero?

In our current world? Rather skeptically. I believe there are people in this world that are superheroes of some sort. It’s harder to see them when their powers aren’t visible. The ones which the world really need are stronger than most emotionally. I call empathy a major superpower.

 


Do you believe in god? If so, what would god be to you?

I’m an ex-Catholic. Does that answer the question? Hahah. To be honest I believe in something higher, something which oversees our presence. I believe no one belief is above another, yet it’s fascinating how people choose to elevate certain characters above a plethora of others. I don’t believe there is one single entity as such, but I do think it’d be fun to have a chat with them all over a piece of cake & a cup of tea.
 


What is our societies fascination with super beings?

I think we all aspire to being something more. Our lives, at times, can be awfully tough. And having this ideal or aspiration that leads into the creation of ‘super beings’ is like our way of saying, “let’s reach for the stars” – maybe we’ll get to the top of the tree or mountain someday. It gives us hope when we need it most. 
 


If you could have a super power what would it be? Would you use it for good or evil?

I would love for everyone to tell the truth. To be more playful. More childlike. We’ve created this immensely complicated puzzle for ourselves as adults (& as a society) that is truly unnecessary. Our instincts know when something is good or bad so I wouldn’t want to judge anyone because of it. If they hurt someone though, my magic power would be that they’d turn into the most beautiful of flowers or cacti & live out their existence that way. Until they saw no need to hurt anyone again. At least no harm would be done to others & admiration would be there for the way anger transformed itself into something much more poetic.

 


Who is your favourite superhero? Why?

Spider-Man has always been the one I related to the most. I was that kid who just wanted his girl in Kindergarten. I still do…but only I’m a whole lot older (hahah). His struggles, his simple way of interacting with the world, reflected how I felt while reading his stories. 
 


What do you want people to understand when they see these pieces?

That being childlike & seeing the world from this perspective doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t be adults as well. Our happiness comes from seeing things in a way which is honest, true & without boundaries. Comics are just as important to the right person as the Bible is to a believer.
 


Any good dessert recommendations?

A high-quality vanilla bean ice cream over a salted caramel bread pudding. While it snows outside. Sitting by the bay window looking up at the stars. Holding your loved one.

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