For five issues Mould Map has been a printed publication, bringing together some of Europe’s most exciting visual artists and graphic storytellers into a format that eschewed traditional comics publishing. It evolved to take on archive material, essays, single images, and graphic fiction, and played fast and loose with formats issue on issue, pushing the limits of what a publication could be. Now founders Hugh Frost and Leon Sadler have taken their vision one step further, expanding Mould Map issue six into an all-encompassing exhibition, Terraformers, that tackles the weighty subject of making worlds.
“We’ve always been drawn to artists that do what we would term world-making,” says Frost. “But it’s also a really broad blanket that you can throw over everyone, and therefore works well for us in grabbing what we want to put in the show. If I think about it in the series of books, I guess as Mould Map developed it’s gone in this direction of looking at the crossover between socially progressive movements, new ideas of futuristic industrialism, and where that crosses over with image making. I suppose we’re interested in how images, design, and design fictions can kind of test drive the future, and help move towards more or less desirable versions of it.”
Unlike many comics publications, Mould Map has always been prepared to tackle the subject of politics head-on, engaging in serious debates about subjects as diverse as the automation of labor and cultural identity in a globalized world. Their progressive mindset has seen them explore public and political agendas before they became mainstream issues in the press. For their fourth issue they produced a Eurozone special that dealt with subjects like immigration, nuclear disarmament, neofascist populism, and TTIP; discussions that received constant media attention during the prelude and aftermath of Britain’s EU referendum. Terraformers seems like the logical next step, looking forward to the next set of problems facing global society.
“There are a few very particular technological phenomena—what people in business school would term ‘business model innovation’—that are about to impact everything,” says Frost. “As technology disrupts labor, as it disrupts people and what they can expect in terms of job security and those sorts of things, how do you try to have a conversation about what that might mean in five years, or 10 years, or 20 years, rather than it just hitting and then being on the back foot.
“Not that I think we have the chance to change anything, but it’s an interesting thing to have a discussion about, and use a more immersive vision rather than all those research white papers, all the major academic backroom projects that exist in universities around the country—to bring those things to life through visual art is a really important message.”
For such a heavy theme, Frost and Sadler chose the format of a physical show over a print publication. “It gives us a chance to work with scale, to work with original paintings, original drawings, and sculpture, stuff that doesn’t necessarily translate perfectly in book form.” This includes 3D printed dildos made from the enlarged penises of insects, a visual adaptation of some 1920s Dutch dystopian fiction, and a team of programmers and an audio designer from Capcom producing a brand new computer game about living in a cave. There’s also an extraordinary archive of magazines from the Japanese bubble economy of the 1980s that Frost believes can serve as lessons for our financial futures.
“Rather than just fetishizing those amazing documents, we’re trying to learn from them and understand how they’re relevant today, particularly with reference to what you do when your economy and a large part of your workforce are tied up with making weapons. I think we’re always going to be in this, like, sci-fi, image, politics crossover space, that’s just really, really interesting and there’s so much more to explore. We’d love to keep doing that kind of back and forth, so book, show, book, show, we just keep going like that, really.”