Life on the CAPS is the final chapter in Meriem Bennani’s film trilogy of the same name, set in a supernatural, dystopian future surrounding a fictional island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. This new work is a result of the artist’s research and reflections on the histories of island societies, biotechnology, and vernacular music. Layering live action footage and computer-generated animation, Bennani intuitively adapts editing techniques that evoke documentary film, science-fiction, phone footage, music videos, and reality TV. Her one-person exhibition at the Renaissance Society will mark the debut of this personal, electric yet melancholic consideration of what it is to live in a state of limbo.
In the world of the CAPS, teleportation has replaced air travel, and displaced populations utilize this portal to cross oceans and borders. Over three generations, what started as a detention camp has developed into a bustling megalopolis where the descendents of families who “illegally” teleported, as told by their cartoon crocodile avatars, are held by the state (together with luxury condo printers, DNA pills, frozen Oreos, and cargo ships with new cars).
Kamal, the main character we follow through the story, got himself a new body, doubling his life span in the hope to take part in a CAPS liberation movement and fight for causes that are impossible to solve “within one’s lifetime.” Although ideas of protests and the political potential of group action were the initial prompts for this new chapter, they quickly moved to the background. What came forward is a narrative of one person’s experience in transition (between places, ages, bodies) and diasporic longing for a place or a time that will never be experienced again.
Seemingly apart from the world of daily experience, yet completely of it, Life on the CAPS blurs and bends realms of the psychological and physical, myth-making and real life, that we are programmed to believe are innately separate, but which Bennani’s film reveals are deeply intertwined in an individual’s life under the nation state. Using sci-fi as a tool to abstract cultural specificities rather than speculate about the future, Bennani takes full liberties afforded by this genre while still relying on the situated subjectivities of her characters. This work in particular owes much to Bennani’s intimate connections with collaborating actors, DJs, and other musicians, including musician and producer Fatima Al Qadiri who scored the piece.
Enacting a variety of cunning shifts, Life on the CAPS moves fluidly from the imaginary to the geopolitical, between microscopic scale of DNA and the global eye of surveillance, the power of individual experience and power of collectivity, building on an emotive, formal experimentation that refutes boundaries.
Curated by Myriam Ben Salah.
Life on the CAPS (2022) is a co-commission with Nottingham Contemporary, UK where it will be presented May 7–September 4, 2022.
This exhibition is made possible by Marilyn and Larry Fields. Additional support has been provided by Sherry and Courtney Reum, Dalal and Zack Arnold, and Miyoung Lee. Major annual support for the Renaissance Society is provided by 247 and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional annual support is provided by The MacArthur Fund for Culture, Equity, and the Arts at Prince and The Provost’s Discretionary Fund at the University of Chicago. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Meriem Bennani (b. 1988 in Rabat, Morocco) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She has been developing a shape-shifting practice of films, sculptures and immersive installations, composed with a subtle agility to question contemporary society, its fractured systems, individual identity, and ubiquitous dominance of digital technologies. Bennani’s work has been shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA PS1, The Guggenheim Museum, Art Dubai, The Fondation Louis Vuitton, Public Art Fund, The Kitchen, and CLEARING, among other venues.
ABOUT THE PUBLICATION
On the occasion of this exhibition, the artist’s first monographic book will include essays by the writers Emily LaBarge and Elvia Wilk, along with a conversation with writer and curator Omar Berrada. It will also feature interviews with the motley characters of the CAPS as well as a piece of fan fiction by the writer Anand Balakrishnan. A co-publication of the Renaissance Society, Nottingham Contemporary, and Bidoun, the book is designed by Tiffany Malakooti and edited by Negar Azimi and Tiffany Malakooti.
All Renaissance Society publications are made possible by The Mansueto Foundation Publications Program.
KAMAL EL JADID in the role of Kamal, AMINE EL BAHI in the role of Amyn, Score by FATIMA AL QADIRI, Cinematography by ALEX GVOJIC, Second Camera by ORIAN BARKI
AZIZ BOUYABRINE, CHAMSEDDINE MOUHADDAB, IZGAR BELRHALI
Asmaa Alkou, Mohamed Darmouch, Ouijdane Boukachabine, Saida Idlmouden, Abderrahmane Bahouali, Hicham Ait Braim, Mustapha Lahmidi, Jouchi Jamal, Abdel Mounaim Soual, Mohamed Reda Bamadane, Mohamed Bimari. And the members of l’Association Ennakhil Pour la Dakka et chants Populaires, Abdelghani Grigaate, Mouhssin Alkam, Mohamed Bensalloum, Mohcine Elmaaraoui, Mohamed Braghni, Moulay Ahmed Achaga, Mustapha Alkam, Najib Latif, Samir Akrab, Salah Eddine Essettou, Salah Belhimer, Ouadiaa Abouhanbal, mad Zouihil, Abderrahim Gamroud, Abdelali Arban, Abdellatif Bestaoui, Abderrahim Ait Joudi, Hicham Essadany, Hassan Boufoulous, Hassan Bouyabrine, Khalid Alkam, Boumeian Zehoua, Bouchra Erreyahi, Hajiba Serouane
Z FILMS. Producer: Zhor Fassi Fihri, Production Director: Amina Ben Haddou, Production Coordinator: Khalid Chouifi, Production Coordinator: Othmane Chkili
First Assistant Camera: Amine Tassouka, Second Assistant Camera: Hamza Tassouka, Back Up: Oumaima Raji, Video Feedback: Youssef Hadni, Sound: Othmane Ismaili Alaoui, Perchman: Yassir Charaf, Studio Sound Engineer: Anis Berjamy, Gaffer: Hamid Jerrar, Gaffer Assistant: Mohamed Chekkouri, Bestboy: Zakaria Lagdani, Crane Operator: Abdelkader Hakim, Grip: Moulay Mustapha El Idrissi, Grip Assistant: Ahmed Nawawi, Grip: Moulay Ahmed El Idrissi, Gear Supplier: TFS, Lighting Truck and Camera Van: La rivière tours
Sound design and sound mix: James Kelly, Colorist: Ben Federman
“Medieval Femme” (Instrumental Version). Written by Fatima Al Qadiri. Courtesy of Hyperdub. “Tu cheez lajawab tera koi na jawab” hard electro mix DJ HARISH. + هيوه + البارة الحديثة لايفوتكم ايقاع “خاص لتسجيل جميع الحنات” Cheb amrou “chkoun li .والحفلات .مع معزوفات منوعة هورنات gall” by Mohcine instru. Saint abdullah “Battlefield Culture”(ft. Travis Laplante). Cheb Abdou EL MAZOuZi. La Mano “WTF.”
DAR BELLARJ and MAHA ELMADI, CLEARING and François Ghebaly, Riad 7 JOURS LOIN DU MONDE, Yazid Bezzaz, BIDOUN.