The Making Known is a solo exhibition of Benny Nemer’s work at the Flaten Museum of Art.
Benny Nemer is a Montreal-born, Paris-based artist, diarist, and researcher whose practice mediates emotional encounters with cultural material. In The Making Known, Nemer attends to the ethical questions that arise from the Tetlie Collection of World War II Propaganda Posters. The collection is held by St. Olaf College and includes 147 posters and broadsides that circulated throughout France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Soviet Union and the Channel Islands as the Nazis attempted to pacify, persuade, and terrify occupied populations. The Making Known’s central feature is an audio guide of the same name. Utilizing an epistolary format, Nemer addresses letters to Flaten Art Museum director and curator Jane Becker Nelson, Midwest Art Conservation Center paper conservator Dianna Clise, and poet and Jewish Holocaust survivor Paul Celan. The polyvocal audio guide is accompanied by a rich musical score created with St. Olaf’s Chamber Singers, directed by Therees Tkach Hibbard. Recorded in March 2021 during Nemer’s remote residence with the choir, the score vocalizes the menacing messages of selected broadsides in the Tetlie Collection in French, German, Dutch, and English. While the audio guide can be experienced online anywhere, Nemer’s treatment of Flaten Art Museum’s north gallery creates a reflective listening space and a chance to see several recently conserved broadsides. Ethereal mobiles created from paper fragments and carnation petals suggest an alternative future for the broadsides that diverges from archival aspirations to interrupt the trajectory toward deterioration. Floral arrangements refreshed weekly reference official sites of remembrance throughout Paris–Nemer’s current home and location of the events described on the broadsides–where brass rings on building exteriors hold memorial flowers that memorialize civilians who were arrested or executed during the Nazi occupation of France from 1940-44. Throughout the exhibition and audio guide, Nemer extends subjectivity to the Tetlie Collection. By treating the posters and broadsides as living, vibrant matter with histories, agency… even feelings, Nemer invites visitors to tend to the affective dimension of bearing witness to the physical traces of a dark chapter of human history.
The Making Known features an audio guide accessed by QR code. To listen, please bring your mobile device and headphones. A limited number of devices and headphones are available for use in the gallery.