A few week ago, the New York-based artist duo of Meriam Bennani and Hayden Dunham launched a project to explore the relationships between artist and Other — Other, in this case, referring to the subconscious muse that lies within. After a chance conversation, Other Travel was born. Personally, I've been intrigued by the project, which aims to confront our metaphysical inspirations, since I first caught a glimpse of their amazing project video (above), so I couldn't help but jump at the chance to chat with Hayden and Meriam.
Take us into the backstory behind the Parallel worlds and how they are connected. What is the relationship between the Other and the Artist? Were there specific artists/collaborators/spirits that you had in mind when you first envisioned the project?
The project began after a conversation we had about the artistic process and how each of us work. We both shared a similar experience. Frequently in quiet moments when we are working on a piece it feels as though there is an energy that is traveling through us that comes from somewhere else. Where we as individuals with egos are absent and just vessels, channeling something else. As we continued discussing this we started referring to this energetic twin/muse as the Other.
What kind of world does the Other exist in? If we have Others do other people have Others too? What would it be like if our Others had a conversation and what would this look like?
This idea, that of a metaphysical being that channels creative energy to individuals is one that can be traced back to ancient greek and roman civilization where any work of “genius” could be attributed to a spirit called a Daemon. There have been other words used for these spirits too, such as a muse or divine inspiration but we choose to explore this further and create a narrative that looks deeper into this world and the creative process in general. In our project, The Mediums (our alter egos) attempt to open up a bridge to this specific parallel world, The Other World. It is a world that is very similar to ours, but everything is slightly off, kind of like an identical twin with different circumstances and a non-human history. We were also interested in the idea of Forking Paths in a Borges sense, a multi-layered narrative that can be read in different ways. We were thinking a lot about art magazines and how they practice a cold and very theoretical interviewing to portray the creative process of specific artists. We wanted to find a way to really interact with artists as admirers and creative individuals ourselves. So we decided to do a sort of metaphysical experiment. The idea is that the Mediums travel to The Other World and host an interview with the artists Other. The product of that interview is an installation or physical piece, one that the Mediums bring back to this realm and present to the artist. The hope for the publication/art book is that we can provide a more intimate and tender perspective into the artistic process through this exchange.
As part of the project, artists receive an invitation to deliver their work to a specific place in NYC. Were these places found by mediums, or divine right? Have they been assigned yet?
The locations of the deliveries mostly depend on the package itself and what we know of the invited artists.
We have already planned every single gift-piece and delivery location for the artists we want to invite. An important element we try to think about when picking the places is that they have to create a safe and warm environment for the artist to feel free to explore and receive the gift, because the Mediums don’t really talk or give spoken instructions. And if that answers better your question, let’s just say that if the package was to be a raft the delivery location may be a river.
Feels like the project is much larger than simply the communication with the other world and the publication. Is the delivery as much apart of the project as these other elements. If so, why?
We are hoping for the deliveries to be really special moments. They will probably be really different with every single artist and gift. The first and only one so far, with Amy von Harrington, has been better than anything we would have hoped for. The Mediums had installed multiple gifts from her Other at Cleopatra’s, a gallery space in Greenpoint. She told us afterwards that she really felt like the space and the presents were dedicated to her and that it was a great experience. She danced and saged the Mediums who were dancing outside of the space. The intensity of that delivery is important in that it will hopefully inspire her to make a response. That is what we are working towards! You can watch the video of that delivery above.
Is it possible to capture a connection with a parallel universe in a physical publication? How does the publication transcend traditional periodicals?
The project includes video, performance, installations, music, photos, text and for sure, telepathic waves.
We thought that maybe a website would be the best way to be loyal to the metaphysicality of Other Travel. However, we both are interested in the physicality of books and are very excited to create a tactile representation of these experiences.
Once Other Travel is "complete," how does the relationship between the Artist and the Other change? Does it continue to evolve, in and of itself?
Well, once the Artist and the Other have been put in contact and exchanged presents, it will be up to them to decide if they want to go on second dates. Mostly, what the Mediums will be there for is to keep on putting artists in touch with their Other, hopefully not just in New York. We are really excited about the possibility of continuing this project and collaborating with others internationally.