The artist behind the frightening ‘bird woman’, who led to the ‘Momo Challenge’, says that children no longer have to be afraid because his creation is “dead.” Keisuke
Aiso (43) also says that he feels “responsible” for the children who were frightened and hurt after his work was abused for the dangerous Internet trend .
‘Momo Challenge’ is named after the ‘bird woman’ that was made in 2016 by Aiso from a naked bird and the head of a frightening woman. The trend surfaced for the first time and grew out of one of the most dangerous on the internet. In some cases, it became a bizarre suicide game that already led to deaths in Russia, Colombia and even Luxembourg. Since last week, the bizarre and dangerous phenomenon has also been warned in Belgium.
Concretely, children and young people receive images of the ‘bird woman’ with ominous messages that threaten them and incite them to dangerous tasks. The Momo Challenge also surfaced in YouTube movies for children and in the popular video game Fortnite. According to experts, however, it is first and foremost a matter of panic. For example, fact-checking website Snopes spoke “of hype or a hoax rather than a reality,” but warned that the images are frightening for children.
Yoko Taguchi, manager of the gallery in Tokyo where the sculpture was shown for the first time, explains how it all started. “Every summer we hold an exhibition about Japanese horror stories and Aiso’s artwork was eligible for this. Usually, we ask people not to take pictures in the gallery, but during the exhibition, in 2016 the sculpture was placed at the entrance and we allowed the visitors to pose with it.”
After the photos of the ‘bird woman’ were posted online, the problems started. The scary face was incorporated into YouTube videos for children and WhatsApp messages. “We were very shocked when we found out that someone had misused the photo. After the challenge became infamous all over the world, all artists of the gallery received death threats. It was never our intention that the artwork was used for a completely different purpose.”
Aiso himself says he feels guilty because his fellow artists receive death threats and disturbing messages. “I feel bad about it. And now I get messages from people who say they will kill me, both in English and in Japanese.”
“I made this artwork three years ago and at the time it was exhibited in the gallery, I had not received much attention as an artist. Only when ‘Momo’ was exhibited for the first time, did my work get exposure. But the way that happens now is very unfortunate. Children have been affected, and I feel responsible for it. I feel like I’m in trouble, but I do not have it all anymore.”
Japanese horror films
The artist admits that the intention was to frighten people with the ‘bird woman’ and that he got his inspiration from Japanese horror films. “It is a monster, that is what I create. I make scary things, either with make-up or with dolls. But it was never my intention to hurt children.”
The artist also tells The Sun that he has destroyed the work. “It fell apart, so it was probably the best option. If you had seen it in its bad state, it would have been even more frightening. I have no regrets that the artwork is now gone,” Aiso said. “Children can now rest easy: Momo is dead, the curse is gone.”