Benny Nemer is an artist and diarist based in Paris. Born in Montreal in 1973, Nemer is the grandson of Quebec potter Rosalie Namer (1925–2006), whose artistic kinship instilled in him an early aesthetic sensibility that included an appreciation of objects, a practice of epistolary writing, and a sympathy with flowers.
Early experiences of homophobia and gender disciplining had an enduring impact on Nemer’s identity, artistic impulses and political orientations, as did an adolescent fear of and fascination with the initial eruption of the AIDS crisis. Alongside significant artistic activity throughout his childhood, Nemer sang in youth choirs and briefly studied ballet, experiences that provided the material for his first body of performance-based work. His emergence as a professional artist was facilitated by the queer art scene of 1990s Toronto and the support of artists including Kim Fullerton, Lisa Steele, Vera Frenkel and Guntar Kravis, as well as institutions like Vtape, the Inside Out Film Festival and the Images Festival, where he was awarded the title Art Fag 2000 at the turn of the millennium.
In search of new sensations, Nemer left Canada for Berlin in 2001, changing the artistic, sexual and relational landscape of his life and work. His artistic development advanced through participation in numerous residencies, notably in Innsbruck, Stockholm, New York, Vienna, Warsaw and Paris, as well as a master’s degree in Studio Practice at Concordia University mentored by Ingrid Bachman, Nancy Ring, Tom Waugh and Cheryl Simon. Nemer credits the evolution of his artistic voice to friendships he has maintained with artists Aleesa Cohene, August Klintberg, Conny Karlsson Lundgren, Pascal Lièvre, Stephen Thompson, Alisha Piercy, Geerten Verheus, Laurie Young and Jonathan VanDyke, as well as close relationships with curators, among them Heather Anderson, Albin Hillervik, Jane Becker Nelson, Seán Elder Wilson, Ashkan Sephavand, Blair Todd, Ingeborg Erhart, Patrik Steorn and Tarin Dehod, who created unique conditions for him to dream and take artistic risks.
Early works like I Am a Boyband (2002) and Live to Tell (2002) involved critical, proto-YouTube mimicry of pop cultural codes, employing video art as an autobiographical tool and a site for queer gender expression. Nemer’s fascination with performance-based video expanded to multidisciplinary practice concerned with queer archives and relational gestures, taking form in audio work, performance, participatory actions, epistolary writing and floral arranging. His artworks often trace the affective contours of love and longing while facilitating bonds of kinship between his audience, figures from history and himself.
A turn in Nemer’s media art practice toward the museum audio guide as an artistic format resulted in collaborations with the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna), the Polin Museum for the History of Polish Jews(Warsaw) and Thielska Galleriet (Stockholm). He completed a practice-led PhD at the Edinburgh College of Art in 2019, where he was part of Cruising the Seventies: Unearthing Pre-HIV/AIDS Queer Sexual Cultures, a three-year research project led by artists, art historians and cultural anthropologists in Germany, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom. Advised by film scholar Glyn Davis and art historian Fiona Anderson, Nemer’s doctoral research critically examined the museum audio guide as a media form, turning to queer theory as well as contemporary museum mediation practice to expand and critically reimagine its potential. Nemer is currently a postdoctoral researcher at KASK + Conservatorium in Ghent, Belgium, where he is pursuing research into queer kinship in the spectre of AIDS, postcards as an artistic medium and the archive of French author and photographer Hervé Guibert.
In addition to numerous private collections, Nemer’s work is in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Ystads Konstmuseum and the Flaten Art Museum.