Multimedia artist constructs portal to parallel universe in New Harmony
As the historic utopian town of New Harmony celebrates its bicentennial, a new memorial being erected – but it identifies a chapter in a story from a parallel universe.
The world of Kcymaerxthaere is stretched across our own planet, but we can’t see it.
The only physical signs that such a universe exists, or existed, are more than 100 historic sites, scattered across 22 countries. From remote parts of Namibia, to an empty field in New Harmony, Indiana.
“Each marker is a page in a book, and it just so happens that every page is in a different place,” said creator and "Geographer-at-Large" Eames Demetrios.
The site is located next to the Atheneum, New Harmony's visitor's center, just a few hundred feet away from the Wabash River.
“You’ll be standing there conjuring up this story, in this beautiful meadow and you'll hear the river," Demetrios said. "So all these things will be telling you you're really there, while at the same time, your mind is telling you you're somewhere totally different.”
If the name Eames sounds familiar, he’s the namesake of grandparents Charles and Ray Eames, who designed the sleek, ahead-of-its-time Eames chair in the 1950s. Like his innovative forebears, Demetrios designed a novel concept: an art installation that can be a shared experience with people around the world.
"So when you go online and you've been to New Harmony and read part of the New Harmony story, you're having an analog experience that's influencing how you read the digital world," Demetrios said. "And that's something you now have in common with people around the world who follows the story."
He crafted epic stories, characters and creatures, like the gnacien.
“A gnacien is a seven-legged deer-like creature whose prime-numbered legs are very nutritious and whose non-prime legs are poisonous unto death," Demetrios said, in a matter-of-fact tone.
Because all that remains of this world are historical markers, the appearance of these creatures is up for interpretation. That’s where a concept Demetrios calls “disputed likeness” comes in.
Students and artists submit drawings, textiles and renderings of the stories and characters from Kcymaerxthaere.
“Every student can bring their own vision, and they all share in the creation," said Director of New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art Garry Holstein.
Holstein and Demetrios collected artwork from Vanderburgh and Posey County students – and others around the world – to display in the days leading up to the new site marker.
“It takes New Harmony and puts it in the position of 'how to we move forward?," Holstein said.
The town, a 200-year-old utopian community that prides itself for preserving history and heritage, seems like an odd place for a monument to an alternative universe. But the town's historic preservation office says Kcymaerxthare is part of New Harmony’s living present – and future.
“I saw parallels to both preserving history and stories, and reacting to the world around us," said Historic New Harmony Director Connie Weinzapfel.
To be clear, Weinzapfel is the former director of the contemporary art gallery, but regardless, she says, given New Harmony’s utopian past, the town is a natural fit for an art installation that inspires interaction and storytelling – something that its early founders prized.
It’s that history, rooted in innovation and creativity that attracted Eames Demetrios to the site in the first place.
"It's a magical place that has its own incredible history that parts of it even sound like one of my stories,” Demetrios said.
That’s what Kcymaerxthaere is about: being able to look at an imaginary world and our own physical world, and experience the magic in both places.
Demetrios broke ground on the site Monday, and he hopes to have it ready for public viewing on Nov. 22.