Memoir

Postmodern Choirboy

Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay on his elegies for a lost natural self

by
• 333 words

“I

was born in Montreal but I’ve mostly lived in Calgary, Winnipeg, or Toronto since I was an adolescent. I was a choirboy and took ballet lessons in Winnipeg, and I think that my choirboy days have surfaced in my art practice. I was a very effeminate young boy, and my natural way of behaving was regarded as inappropriate from a very early age by pretty much everyone. I learned to figure out what I should be doing differently, to mimic behaviour that was appropriate, especially in terms of gender. My sense of self became denaturalized early on, and in my video work there is a kind of search for the natural self that was lost.

Audition Tape is organized to appear as an American Idol-style audition that goes wrong. I’m supposed to be singing but I just keep telling my story and talking about my own impressions of the song and the kinds of things it makes me think about. One night when I was out dancing, I heard a song that really interested me, by a teenage faux-lesbian Russian girl band that dresses up as hypersexualized teens and sings songs that are relevant to lesbian and gay youths. It reminded me of my own queer sexuality when I was thirteen, and also of my sense of what it means to be a Russian woman, based on my own family. I tried to encapsulate all of this through a monologue about my own history as a Jew of Russian origin, as a gay man, and as a singer. Its a surreal audition that keeps going on and on.

“I’ve always been fascinated by love songs and the ways in which emotions get translated into language. This triggered an interest in the different ways in which love is expressed in pop songs, which are so ubiquitous in our culture. We constantly hear love songs that say, “I will love you forever.’ What impact do they have on our romantic experience”