Need To Know: Multimedia Artist Meriem Bennani
Two lizards hang out on a Brooklyn balcony at sunset, discussing lockdown. A Moroccan villa begins singing, teeth bared. A crocodile becomes tour guide to a futuristic world where everyone travels by teleportation, and those intercepted at American border control are interned on an island in the Atlantic.
Meriem Bennani’s work is jarringly surreal, combining documentary footage and improvised scenes with playful animations and CGI to create films that hover between reality and fiction. The Moroccan-born multimedia artist and sculptor is a fast-rising star. Her immersive pieces have appeared in galleries including MoMA PS1 and the Whitney Museum Of American Art in New York, and have garnered praise for their disarming examinations of post-colonialism and cultural identity. Her work, a product of an age where footage can be collected on an iPhone and filters mean we can edit the world around us in real time, is predictably popular on Instagram. Last year she made ArtReview’s Power 100.
Recently, Bennani collaborated with Miuccia Prada’s team on Miu Miu’s SS22 show. Models marched past binocular-shaped screens showing clips of dancing stethoscopes, breathless audience members and women casually discussing plastic surgery. “I love thinking about the relationship between space and moving image, so it was a really fun challenge for me – although we did it all in about 20 days,” Bennani says. She was also tasked with shaking up the show’s livestream. “Miuccia Prada specifically said she thought an artist would be able to redefine these classic formats.”
Bennani’s Life On The CAPS exhibition is currently running at The Renaissance Society in Chicago, and from 7 May will move to Nottingham Contemporary gallery in the UK. The show is a sequel to Party On The CAPS, the detention island dystopia first exhibited in 2018. “I think this chapter is a bit darker than the previous ones, probably because I’ve been having a hard time like most people after two years of pandemic and relative isolation,” she says.
Rosalind Jana is a London-based culture, art and fashion writer, who has written for publications including British Vogue, BBC Culture, Prospect and The Face