How ‘2 Lizards’ and Meriem Bennani captured the essence of 2020
Since 2016, Bennani has been engaged in what she calls a speculative documentary – a series of videos on a fictional island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that she calls the Caps. The idea began to take shape when the Trump administration cracked down on migrants. Bennani was on a search jag, obsessively learning about teleportation. (Despite her playful nature, she is flawlessly rigorous and spends several minutes explaining recent experiments with photons in the Canary Islands and elsewhere that prove teleportation is possible.) She began to imagine a future in which la teleportation has replaced air travel and is becoming the primary means by which people migrate. âThe Americans would panic,â she said.
So she designed an updated version of Immigration and Customs Enforcement that had the technology to intercept teleportations and transport people to a place of detention on the Caps. Disturbed teleports lead to physiological issues, including pixelated bodies and a horribly hilarious deformity that Bennani calls “plastic face syndrome,” in which the skin is covered with a layer of plastic. (âIn the Caps, bodies are a whole different story,â she explains. That they constantly change and in transition is âan extension of queerness.â) The story of this universe is told in the first one. video from the “Life on the ‘Caps’ Series,”Party on caps(2018-19), by a floating crocodile which gives a guided tour of the bustling megalopolis. The crocodile is expressed by Crotch Fiona, a Barcelona rapper whom Barki met on Instagram and who is originally from Equatorial Guinea and has a spicy accent with Spanish accents. âIt’s hard to place,â says Bennani, which is why she likes it.
The Caps, even though they are filled with the wounded bodies of people whose lives have been violently arrested, is a lively and teeming place. People have been stuck there for generations, so they start to build things: neighborhoods, cities, their own internet, their own brands. Bennani filmed each of the three parts of “Life on Caps” in Morocco, including one this year that used footage shot by his subjects, and the second chapter, which will be on display at the Renaissance Society in Chicago in February 2022 and Contemporary Nottingham in England in May. The project has become a device, she says, through which she can talk about her country of birth, examine the state of being in a diaspora, of statelessness. It is a condition too easily viewed as tragic or abnormal. But for Bennani, it doesn’t have to be either. When you’re in limbo, she suggests, you don’t necessarily want to come back or assimilate. Maybe the Caps, says Bennani, “is a model for a way of life.”