Japanese/British artist, scientist, and pop star Sputniko! is best known for pushing the boundaries of gender and cultural norms. For her past project, Nanohana Heels, the artist created a pair of women's shoes that enabled the wearer to plant radiation-fighting seeds as they walked--a creative response to the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. For her newest project, The Moonwalk Machine- Selena's Step, the artist has produced a short film exploring amateur scientist Selena's attempt to emulate her hero Lunar Girl--a superwoman on the moon--by building and launching a high heel rover into space.
In our short film above, Sputniko! describes her desire to bring a metaphorical woman's touch to the moon, her dual cultural identities, and the mystery of the hybrid.
Selena's hero, galactic superwoman Lunar Girl, as modeled by Sputniko!
Known in Japan and abroad for merging feminism and technology, the artist has also managed to bridge the gap between mechanical sculpture, installation, film, and music--working for two years with music company Dreamusic on bringing her message of female empowerment to a broader audience. As part of this quest Sputniko! recently had an epiphany; the Moon was missing something, and that something was women. "In 1969 captain Neil Armstrong took a great step on the Moon's surface," Sputniko! tells us in the film above. "More than 40 years later only twelve white American men have ever left their footprints on the Moon. I thought there's something not right about that. It should be more open. Everyone, including women, wants to walk on the Moon."
In The Moonwalk Machine - Selena's Step, currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo through January 2014 as part of the Bunny Smash exhibition, a young girl takes her love of Manga and moon travel to challenge the status quo. Inspired by her own love of pumps, Selena's rover leaves behind heel indents in its wake--essentially bringing the first woman to the moon.
To create Selena's rover, Sputniko! sought out NASA's Universities Space Research Association and Lunar Planetary Institute to create an accurate prototype:
Selena's high-heel moon rover.
The result was something half high tech, half high fashion.
Part of what inspired Sputniko! to launch this project was a mission to inspire more women to embrace tech, as well as her own experiences in this traditionally male-dominated field. "In Japan it’s really different from the US or the UK. The gender roles are so much more rigid. And I want younger females, high school or college students, to feel courage to do what they want or say what they want."
Though Sputniko! has certainly been embraced by mainstream Japanese culture, recently presented with the Vogue Japan Women of the Year 2013 Award, she still sees herself as something of a curiosity in both the art and science fields. "I feel like I’m in a gray spot of the tech field," Sputniko! recently told us via phone. "In a way I feel like I was able to do things I wanted because I was a little bit of an outsider. I’m kind of in the arts and in tech but I’m not completely part of either of them. I think when you’re in just one you loose perspective."
Recently joining the MIT Media Lab as an assistant professor, Sputniko! will be bringing her boundary-pushing work to the US this season.
Sputniko! in her studio.
The artist graduated in 2010 from the Royal College of Art in London, England. Her works have been featured in the Contemporary Museum of Art in Tokyo and MoMA in New York City.
Below, follow Selena on her epic voyage to "Da da dance on the moon" in silver heels: