Invoking Colin Campbell

Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay exhibition to open at the President’s Cottage

This past weekend I drove down to Charlottetown, PEI to see an exhibition that will open Friday on campus. It was part of Flotilla, a conference for artist-run centres from across Canada. The work exhibited was a project by Edinburgh-based artist Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay, and was shown in an empty storefront downtown.

Colin is my real name is an exhibition co-organized by Struts Gallery & Faucet Media Arts Centre and the Owens Art Gallery. The work is a reimagining and recalling of  True/False, a piece by pivotal video artist and former Mt. A professor Colin Campbell. Nemerofsky’s version of the work was filmed at the President’s Cottage which will be the venue for this exhibition.

When I walked into the empty storefront in Charlottetown, I was greeted by Campbell’s original video from 1972. It was playing on an old CRT television with two pairs of headphones hanging below it. Nemerofsky’s reimagining of this work was projected on a screen suspended on the other side of the room. A mirror held by the artist in this version dangled beside the projection, spinning while attached to a disco ball rotator. On the wall, a list of the statements made in the work were displayed in vinyl lettering. Unique to Charlottetown’s iteration of the exhibition was a floral arrangement by Nemerofsky perched on a Fawcett stove made at the old foundry in Sackville. The latter was discovered in the exhibition space, which had been a restaurant until 2014.

In Campbell’s original video, the artist makes a series of increasingly personal declarations, responding in turn with the words “true” and “false.” Nemerofsky’s video plays out in a similar style. The artist repeats the same questions as Campbell with minor differences. Instead of a white background, Nemerofsky sits beside an empty chair in front of a bay window in the President’s Cottage. The pairing of the two videos is essential to the work as you begin to notice that Campbell’s voice blends with, and soon overtakes, Nemerofsky’s.

Nemerofsky’s work is performative and frequently uses appropriated text and audio which often come from pop songs or historical writing. In his own words, you will find in his work “[…] megaphones, mirrors, naked men, sign language, subtitles, and the voices of birds, boy sopranos, contraltos, countertenors and sirens.” A personal favourite of mine is his video piece I Am a Boy Band where the artist sings a Victorian era madrigal (a song written for many voices) as if he is four members of a boy band.

If all or any of the elements from Nemerofsky’s work interest you, Colin is my real name opens this Friday at 7 p.m. at the President’s Cottage. The exhibition will be open to the public 2 – 5 p.m. every Tuesday to Friday until Oct. 27.

Evan Furness