Mike Kelley’s exhibition at Hauser & Wirth begins in a dark room with resin casts of retro-futuristic cityscapes lit from below in different colors, depicting different versions of Superman’s birth city on Krypton, Kandor. In another room megalopolis is displayed, along with bell jars and vacuum tubes, representing Kandor’s fate to be saved only by Superman’s cunning. A nearby corridor contains lenticular images that shift between empty jars or disconnected tubes and versions of Kandor. This series is preceded by a disturbing image of clowns, which is revealed to be from the film playing in the final room.
While the film plays, visitors can walk through its set and props: the ruins of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Inside the desolate pile of stones that make up the Fortress are the remains of Kandor: a final miniature city glowing within a bell jar ventilated with vacuum tubes. It illuminates an enclave of gold and jewels, however these riches are abandoned, as is Kandor, suggesting Superman will not return.
In the film, the Fortress is inhabited not by Superman, but by Victorian clowns enthusiastically sexually abusing a captive woman. The villains are the victors, and the hero does not save the day—a morbid, if not refreshing take on the superhero story.