On Saturday afternoon, Eames Demetrios hosted a casual lecture about his project Kcymaerxthaere at the Old City Jail. A curious crowd gathered under the oak trees hoping to glean some insight into the artist’s fictional alternative universe and see the unveiling of his latest plaque. I can’t say I feel much more knowledgeable about the project after hearing Demetrios speak, but I do know how to pronounce it now: Ki-mer-ix-theer.
Arriving a few minutes late, Demetrios joked that he would have been punctual in Kcymaerxthaeric time. A hundred percent in character, he quizzed us on our knowledge of Kcymaerxthaeric history and bemoaned our society's negligent schooling. He then launched into the convoluted story of why the Charleston area is so important to Kcymaerxthaere. Using the realm’s invented language and referring to a number of related and equally complex histories, Demetrios was hard to follow as he told his tale like a storyteller regaling a crowd of children. Except this was no simple fairy tale.
Kcymaerxthaere embraces our physical world, but not the temporal. According to Demetrios, the Lowcountry is key to Kcymaerxthaeric history because Charleston Harbor is a place where three rivers meet — what we know as the Cooper and the Ashley, and a powerful aerial river as well. The force of the three rivers meeting creates a great deal of erosion, and so a powerful soldier character planned to jump into the area so that he would be obliterated, his atoms would disperse, and he could start over and conquer the world. However, a seer character followed him, gathered up his atoms, and nursed him back to health so that he could return to what we know as Santa Barbara. Confused? I was, too. In fact, I probably have some details of the story wrong. I was confused even after Demetrios read the plaque.
Demetrios made more sense when he dropped the act and started talking about the project in realistic terms. His ultimate goal is to expand people’s perceptions beyond the obvious. “Seeing what’s not here is just as important as seeing what’s here,” he said. It’s about sculpting a world in your mind — much like reading a book, really, but the manuscript is illuminated and every page is in a different place. Although the story is always developing, it comes down to seven main stories. As of now, Demetrios says he has 70 plaques in eight "linear" countries. He hopes to have 1,000 one day.
Students at the American College of the Building Arts have embraced the project, welcoming one of three new local plaques onto the historic grounds of the Old City Jail. Right next to the rusty paddy wagon that carried prisoners hundreds of years ago is the plaque marking the site as significant in this fictional history as well. A stone carving represents an important character in the tale, and there are plans to expand the site with additional carvings to mark the fictional atom-obliterating-salvation occasion. The overlap of real and imagined fictions is admittedly a little disturbing. Demetrios says he makes a point to keep our own history out of his stories because he wants to add a new, fresh layer.
To see more of Demetrios’ project, head to the Halsey to view his text-heavy exhibit. Also check out the plaques he’s installed around town — though you might want to skip the one that’s at the bottom of Charleston Harbor.