Their latest collaboration with Brazilian footwear company Melissa disrupts and inspires in SoHo.
You can tell a lot about children by what they want for Christmas. While some 90s kids might have asked Santa for LEGOs, Tamagotchis, or Beanie Babies, artist and curator Rémy Bennett kindly requested a life-size coffin. (It was actually a fitting request, since at the time the youngster idolized Lestat, Tom Cruise’s character from Interview with the Vampire.) Rémy’s sister and collaborator Kelsey shared her penchant for off-kilter inspiration from different mediums. In a recent conversation over email, she cited the irreverent characters and visual eccentricity of auteurs like David Lynch and John Waters as work that resonated with her as a young artist. She also described the obsession she and her sister shared for classic horror films like Poltergeist and The Birds. From the color schemes of these films’ sets and clothing, to the unease present in every frame, they couldn’t get enough.
The Future of Her is an interactive art project presented at Melissa's brand-new SoHo concept store, Galeria Melissa, featuring art and video installations curated by Kelsey and Rémy Bennett, and featuring Sam Cannon and Signe Pierce, as well as multimedia architecture from Brazilian visual artist Muti Randolph. In the second of our series of profiles on the crew of artistic minds lending their talents to the shop, we chatted with Kelsey and Rémy Bennett about the inspirations for their latest project.
From a young age, the sisters were surrounded by sounds and styles that would eventually inform their artistic production, which consistently flips the lid on the mundane. In the basement of their home their father had a recording studio used by the likes of Salt-N-Pepa. Upstairs their mom had her art studio, and both of their grandmothers—one a painter, the other a photographer—pushed them to experiment with and soak in all kinds of culture. Today, Kelsey mainly works in photography and Rémy focuses on directing, and their individual and collaborative work builds on their unusually creative upbringing.
While some might wonder if two siblings making art and essentially running their own business together might quarrel, the Bennetts say their shared DNA only helps them push their creativity to new levels. “We’re more psychic than anything,” said Kelsey. “That ability has filtered into our work and creative process.” They hope their successful collaboration helps change certain perceptions of women. “Women have been given a reputation of being competitive with each other, but we don’t fall under that category,” she continued.
The perception of women in art and culture lies at the core of the Bennetts’ work. This will be on display at Brazilian footwear designer Melissa’s new concept store, Galeria Melissa, in SoHo, NYC, where they’ll be curating The Future of Her art series. Backdropped by the futuristic architecture of frequent Melissa collaborator, Brazil’s Muti Randolph, the multimedia gallery space will feature filmmaker and digital artist Sam Cannon’s prismatic work and Signe Pierce’s signature combination of photography, installation, and performance art. Visitors to the space will catch a glimpse of a female-centric futuristic utopia in which technological and organic matter coexist in harmony. The Bennetts say the series is connected conceptually to one of their recent projects, LIFEFORCE, which featured 24 female artists and focused on “cyborg feminism,” a philosophy that examines the concept of the cyborg as a symbolic rejection of the boundaries that separate humans, animals, and machines according to their biological makeup. It also rejects the notion that female bodies are merely vessels for procreation.
Melissa’s embrace of the artistic community first attracted the Bennetts to the project. “[Melissa’s] emphasis on the importance of art is a message that deeply resonates with us,” says Kelsey. Furthermore, the company’s focus on redefining the gallery space and its support of creative women echo the Bennetts’ own artistic goals. “There are more and more women at the forefront of our creative landscape, and by Melissa contributing to that growing platform they are helping the expansion of culture and perspective,” they explained.
Like much of the work that inspired the sisters throughout their personal and professional development, their curation of the SoHo Galeria Melissa installation will allow for audience interaction—an approach they say has been influential to their work over the years. “A major early influence for both of us was the Red Grooms exhibition at the Whitney. His work his so immersive,” said Kelsey. “I remember walking through that exhibit relieved to not have the feeling that a guard might tell me to back away from the art. We’ve applied the same sort of immersive feelings to our collaborations and curation. I think it’s important for the viewer to feel as close to the art as possible.”
The Bennett sisters say that The Future of Her is a rumination on the age-old artistic trope of the “divine female,” but they aim to flip perceptions in a fluid, open-ended way that allows viewers to shape their own opinions. “ The divine female reconnects to the source of life through an innate wisdom and transcendent flow that breaks through barriers by existing as a pure essence, allowing all possibilities,” they say about the upcoming project. “The concept of transcendence will be seen throughout the exhibition using mirrors reflecting into each other to emulate infinity. This will introduce the fluidity that The Future of Her embraces and celebrates.”
Melissa is a celebration of design. Created in 1979, the brand is recognized worldwide for the innovative works on its key raw material, a recyclable PVC (100% cruelty-free!), with an irresistible scent. Melissa has associated itself with iconic names in design, fashion and art, collaborating with Jeremy Scott, Vivienne Westwood, Karl Lagerfeld, Campana Brothers, Zaha Hadid, among others. Although it was born in Brazil, Melissa is a global brand not only because it can be found in 96 countries but also for its cutting edge aesthetic which surprises fans all around the globe.
Galeria Melissa, at 500 Broadway in New York, NY is the third of its kind, joining the flagship in São Paulo, Brazil and Covent Garden, London. It opened to the public on July 27. Admission to view The Future of Her is free during retail hours through early September.
Previous Galeria Melissa installations include; Zaha Hadid, Karl Lagerfeld, Jeremy Scott, Gareth Pugh, Vivienne Westwood, Claire Barrow, Walt Cassidy, Karl Lagerfeld, Edson Matsuo and EPFL+ECAL Lab, David Thomas Solution and SOFTlab, Natalie Kates, Sebastian Errazuriz and more.
Photos by Charlie Rubin.