Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain is thrilled to present as part of MOMENTA 2021 satellite program Benny Nemer for the first time at the gallery on Rachel with his solo exhibition: Pour un herbier.
"Tread lightly in the forest you have entered. Are you lost or have you searched to find me? It matters not. In this brisk silence you can hear the sap flowing and the world breathe. [Inhale. Exhale.] You have found yourself in the deepest part of the woods. The untouched part of the woods. It is like an inner sanctum, if you like. A palace without a roof, completely open to the elements. [Inhale. Exhale.] A domain consecrated by stillness and mist.
The trees extend their mossy branches into the rooms like good friends and ivy is crawling down every wall. The floor rustles with leaves and squeaks with growing mushrooms. The air is purified and the light is cool. [Inhale. Exhale.] I follow you as you explore the contents of my forest palace: assortments of queer twigs and flowers; petals in magical motion; exotic leaves; glinting memories of kinship; photographs; a still embrace, transparent like glass.
You are a curious foreign body. You wander from one room to the next, touching me randomly along the way. I can taste your skin and sweat. A single hair from your thigh got caught on a twig and shines golden like a trophy. [Inhale. Exhale.] You are polluting me with your presence. But I will not cough you out. I can feel you inside me with every movement of my chest.
Why is your pale skin so soft? And why are you now walking away from me? [Inhale. Exhale.] You are moving too far away from my palace. The air is dry here. I will not survive if I follow you further out. Don't leave. [Inhale. Exhale.] I will tell the fungi to infect you with spores. I will make the fern to twist your ankle. I will ask a herd of does to block your way and usher you back to me. Don't leave. [Inhale. Exhale.] Don't leave.
The skin of my hand bursts with tiny flowers. I'm covered in them like an alpine meadow. With my lungs parched, I collapse on my knees and touch you one last time. I dust your calf with bright red pollen. I'm letting my body lie down as you disappear under the oaks.
My heart is crumbling like ashes and my chest unfurls like dry leaves. My spine creaks as it grows roots. The mycelium is embracing me. Rock jasmine is growing between my legs. Irises and dandelions have pierced my ribs and thighs like arrows. A pair of orchids is coming out of my ear. A glorious head of asphodel is rising from my open mouth.
Pick what you like from this blooming cadaver. I am agape, in every sense of the word." - Kiriakos Spirou (2021)
The artist notes:
"In recent years, my personal habit of arranging flowers has evolved into an artistic practice, joining other gestures and materials concerned with emotion and relation that have propelled my work for the last two decades. Through my compositions of botanical and non-botanical matter, I seek an expressive language for feelings and affective experiences that do not easily translate into words. Over time, my floral vocabulary grows increasingly personal, however I have come to understand that viewers interpret my arrangements in ways that allow them to access their own individual emotional landscapes, to make their own meaning, to tell their own stories." - BN
Benny Nemer (Montreal, 1973) is a multidisciplinary artist, diarist, and researcher. His artistic work mediates emotional encounters with musical, botanical, art historical, and queer cultural material, encouraging deep listening and empathic viewing. In his work you will find audio guides, bells, bouquets, ceramic vases, enchanted forests, folding screens, gay elders, glitter, gold leaf, love letters, imaginary paintings, madrigals, megaphones, mirrors, naked men, sex-changing flowers, sign language, subtitles, and the voices of birds, boy sopranos, contraltos, countertenors, and sirens.
His work has exhibited internationally, including solo exhibitions at the Tiroler Kunstpavillon (Innsbruck), Dazibao Centre de Photographies Actuelles (Montreal), and the Staatsbibliothek (Stuttgart); and numerous group exhibitions including the Frankfurter Kunstverein (Frankfurt), The Power Plant Gallery of Contemporary Art (Toronto), Kunsthallen Nikolaj (Copenhagen), the Schwules Museum (Berlin), and the Red Brick House (Yokohama), among others. His video work has been screened at film and media art festivals across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, and has won awards in Canada, Germany, Poland, and Portugal. His sound and video work is part of the permanent collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna), The Polin Museum for the History of Polish Jews (Warsaw), Thielska Galleriet (Stockholm), and The National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).
Nemer completed a practice-led PhD at the Edinburgh College of Art in 2019, where he was part of Cruising the 70s: Unearthing Pre-HIV/AIDS Queer Sexual Cultures, a three-year research project led by art historians, cultural anthropologists, and artists in Germany, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. His doctoral research critically examined the museum audio guide as a media form, turning to queer theory and contemporary museum mediation practice to expand and critically reimagine its potential. Nemer is currently one of nine inaugural artists-in-residence at the Fondation Fiminco, a new cultural institution in Romainville, France, and a researcher in residence at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid, Spain. He is a core tutor for the Masters of Artistic Research programme at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague, Netherlands.