Parallel Worlds and Artificial History: The Case of Eames Demetrios’s Kcymaerxthaere
by Weronika Łaszkiewicz
Eames Demetrios is an artist whose exploration of the relationship between history, place, and art resulted in a project of unique scale and vision—Kcymaerxthaere. According to Demetrios’s explanations, Kcymaerxthaere is a parallel universe which is largely consistent with the linear world as we know it, yet at the same time different from it in many ways. The name “Kcymaerxthaere,” in Demetrios’s artificial language, is a combination of two words: kcymaara which stands for “the true physicality of the planet” and xthaere which denotes “a shape with almost an infinity of dimensions—infinity minus twenty-nine.” Since 2003 Demetrios has been creating a complex network of global installations which unveil Kcymaerxthaere’s history. His signature piece are bronze plaques describing events and figures from the parallel world. Till the present day Demetrios—Geographer-at-Large as he calls himself—has installed more than one hundred plaques. While initially he worked mainly within the borders of the US, he eventually exported his vision to various regions of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and South America, thus transforming Kcymaerxthaere into an international affair. The plaques can be discovered in all sorts of places and we can stumble upon one of them when we are least expecting it: in the streets of London or in the deserts of Utah, on the Campus of the Microsoft Corporation in Washington or diving near the coasts of Scotland. Two plaques are even located in northeastern Poland, near Poczopek (around 40 km from Białystok). And many more are still to appear in different parts of the world, since Demetrios states that he is not even nearly done with his project. In fact, he declares that the project will be finished only when “most of the world’s population is within a day’s drive from a [Kcymaerxthaere] site.”
The intricacy and sheer strangeness Kcymaerxthaere’s history might baffle the unsuspecting reader. Not having heard about the project before, I was really surprised when I discovered the two plaques located in Poland, humbly set on concrete foundation in the middle of the forest. One commemorates Forrest Bess, a Kcymaerxthaere painter for whom the forest clearings were the perfect art studio. The other explains that one of the clearings was also a gathering place for the Bar Sinister, a group of undead lawyers traveling through time and space. All of this can be, of course, quite confusing. While the plaques do occasionally provide explanation about some of the figures and concepts devised by Demetrios, readers are, for the most part, thrown into the meanders of Kcymaerxthaere history, challenged to make sense of the plaques’ contents, and then confronted by a realization that what they are presented with is but an excerpt from a very complex story that they have yet to discover.
Fortunately, people interested in Kcymaerxthaere do not have to travel around the globe, since all of the plaques are available on the project’s official website. To browse trough them is to discover that Demetrios is an artist engaged in mythopoeia, i.e. myth-making, on a global level. The history of Kcymaerxthaere is full of struggling heroes, ancient royal families, grand battles, falling empires, and supernatural beings. The most prominent threads in Demetrios’s myth-making enterprise are perhaps the tale of Amory Frontage who founded the Parisian Diaspora, of Culev Larsze who envisioned a tower of wisdom that reached the sky, of Eliala Mei-Ling whose beautiful voice could never be concealed, and of the cosmic Battle of Some Times during which the Armies of Complexity fought against the god Kmpass. These stories span entire continents and the heroes reappear on plaques installed in various countries (e.g. the story of Forrest Bess engraved on a plaque in Poland is continued on a marker placed in Grand Rapids, Michigan). While some components of these stories are purely fantastic and seem like the things we would find in science fiction or fantasy novels, others are embedded in the landscape and heritage of the area in which the plaque is located. Thus, while readers encounter “gnaciens” (seven-legged deer-like animals), “agogatlovs” (creatures of density that live below the surface), and “rabansg” (dolphin-like beings that built air-water-ships), they also learn that “Kymaerica” roughly denotes the region of North America, that “Cherokee” were part of the Arrowhead Confederacy which united the nations that dominated sGeorgia after the fall of Athens, and that according to a plaque in Manhattan the island was sold by Pieteer van Amsterdaam because of his gambling debt to the Algonquin Round Table Casino. Even the infamous chupacabras make an appearance in the world of Kcymaerxthaere (in which they are prone to similar attacks on farm animals).
Demetrios’s project blends the real with the imaginary, the past with the future, to form—often with the help of the local community when it begins to share the artist’s vision—a new narrative in which the world as we know it becomes invested with Kcymaerxthaere’s history. Demetrios himself has more than once likened his work to a literary project by describing Kcymaerxthaere as an example of three-dimensional story-telling, and by comparing the installations to a novel whose every page is located in a different part of the world. In spite of such comparisons, Demetrios does not present himself as an experimental writer whose vision compelled him to search for a new medium of expression. Instead, he acts as the discoverer and ambassadors of Kcymaerxthaere—as a mediator between worlds, whose task it is to uncover the secrets of the parallel reality and then share them with the people of our own world. Consequently, whenever Demetrios talks about Kcymaerxthaere, he does so in such a manner as to convince his audience of its existence. Or, to paraphrase J.R.R. Tolkien’s remarks on a reader’s approach to a fantasy narrative and its secondary (i.e. imaginary) world, Demetrios does what he can to make his audience willingly suspend their disbelief, so that they can temporarily enter and share the fantasy of Kcymaerxthaere. To achieve that goal Demetrios often speaks about the parallel reality in a “matter-of-fact” manner and assumes, to the amusement of his audience, that they share his knowledge.
While Demetrios’s remarks border on counter-memory practices, i.e. an individual’s reconstruction of history and its forgotten or suppressed elements, the creation of Kcymaerxthaere is not rooted in resistance to official history. The artist’s unwavering belief in Kcymaerxthaere and his attempts at giving substance to its illusory existence are motivated by his belief that people need to gain a fresh perspective of their immediate surroundings and the entire world. In the artist’s own words, the purpose behind the creation of Kcymaerxthaere is to convince people that they should not take their environment as “inevitable,” and instead they should “see the possibilities behind it, within it, and maybe even beside it.” Kcymaerxthaere is, therefore, Demetrios’s exercise in speculation and imagination, which the audience is invited to join and share, so that they can renew their perception of the world. Such motivation again links Demetrios to Tolkien, because the latter also argued that one of the key qualities of fantasy narratives is “Recovery,” i.e. after readers are exposed to objects and events made unfamiliar by magic, they might regain a fresh awareness of their own surroundings and of the things they used to take for granted. Since Demetrios believes in the similar properties of his Kcymaerxthaere, it might be argued that he is a contemporary heir to Tolkien’s philosophy—a philosophy which he expanded beyond fairy stories and fantasy fiction.
Inarguably, Demetrios’s project affects both the landscapes of our world and the landscapes of our imagination. More than one hundred plaques have already been installed all over the world. If the artist manages to achieve his goal of having the entire population within a day’s drive of a Kcymaerxthaere plaque or site, then his artistic enterprise will noticeably imprint itself upon the surface of our planet. Meanwhile, Kcymaerxthaere stimulates our imagination, because it veils our world with a new layer of myth and history. In an article on Robert Smithson and Eames Demetrios, Kevin Buist writes: “[w]hile touring Demetrios’ss plaques is certainly fun, and has value as an act of civic engagement or even a twist on geocaching, the real value lies in the plaques’ ability to impart a sense of importance on a site by tethering it to myth.” Yet whether the experience offered by a Kcymaerxthaere site can rival that offered by any authentic historical location (e.g. the Colosseum or Egyptian pyramids) is questionable since the former is, regardless of the artist’s best efforts, an artificial site that requires the viewers’ consent and emotional engagement to become meaningful—i.e. viewers have to agree to suspend their disbelief and have a dose of imagination to delve into speculation about parallel dimensions, whereas the history of the Colosseum or the pyramids is a fact that exists regardless of the viewers’ beliefs.
It is worth noting that Demetrios’s project corresponds with the Mormon tradition. According to Mormon beliefs, the text of the holy Book of Mormon originates from the golden plates which Joseph Smith, directed by the Angel Moroni, discovered and subsequently translated. These plates contained ancient scriptural and historical records which are absent from the Christian Bible and which became the foundation for Mormonism. Thus, while Mormons consider themselves Christians and accept the Christian Bible, they also claim that the full truth about mankind’s relationship with God and its salvation through Christ’s sacrifice is delivered by the Book of Mormon. Yet due to differences in the doctrine, other Christian denominations do not accept Mormonism as a branch of Christianity. While there are no records of Demetrios being a Mormon, he has made an intriguing statement when describing the Kcymaerxthaere plaques: “Of course, since it’s bronze, it has to be true.” While it would be a mistake to read too much into this single statement (perhaps delivered in a tongue-in-cheek manner)—since Kcymaerxthaere neither uses the Mormon tradition as a precedent to validate its own existence nor does it question the Mormon tradition with its own artificiality—a link between Kcymaerxthaere and Mormonism does open some space for creative speculation. While today anyone can Google Kcymaerxthaere to learn about it, we can only wonder how it will be perceived by people from the distant future. Our history knows of advanced civilizations, now extinct, whose remnants we still strive to understand, often with little success. If our civilization were to end and our knowledge were to be lost, what would happen to Kcymaerxthaere? Would our descendants believe in the contents of its plaques, thus allowing Demetrios’s work to subvert reality and history?
Kcymaerxthaere is, undoubtedly, an ambitious project which will not be completed for many years—if it ever is. After all, as passionate and hard-working a man as Demetrios might be, he is but a single artist and the world is vast. Kcymaerxthaere might never attain the level of recognition that will transform it into an element of common knowledge. And perhaps it should not, because it is fun to discover its existence on your own. Perhaps instead of seeking to understand all of Kcymaerxthaere’s parallel history, we should only try to hold on to the sense of wonder that it evokes, so that we will approach the history and landscapes of our world with a renewed sense of curiosity.
 See the project’s official website: http://www.kcymaerxthaere.com/index.php/about/about_kcy
 See Julie Wolfson’s interview with the artist: “Interview: Eames Demetrios” (15 April 2014)
 To see the plaques visit:
 See the introduction to Demetrios’s exhibition at the Halsey Institute:
 See Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories” published in Tree and Leaf (London: Unwin Hyman, 1988).
 See Demetrios’s talk for TEDx “Eames Demetrios – Stories of Parallel Universe”:
 See Demetrios’s clip “Discover Kcymaerxthaere”:
 See Tolkien’s “On Fairy-Stories” (p. 53).
 See Kevin Buist’s article “Mythic Environments: Robert Smithson and Eames Demetrios” (16 Nov. 2009):
 See Demetrios’s talk for TED “The design genius of Charles + Ray Eames” (Feb. 2007) – min. 10:30