"You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above, or on the earth below, or in the water under the earth...
Exodus 20:4-5; Deuteronomy 5:8
The Biblical prohibition against idol worship resonates with contemporary artists who perceive themselves as iconoclasts. Artists engaged in the business aspects of art making are particularly aware that money, fame, beauty, and the cult of personality have the potential to diminish one's spirit and humanity. Casting themselves in star roles, artists Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay and Ariela Plotkin use music video and celebrity pop culture as a means to transgress sexual, religious, and ethnic conventions and to resist the allurements of contemporary society.
The global television phenomenon American Idol inspired Canadian performance artist Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay to record a fictitious audition tape for Tatu, a controversial Russian girl pop group. Standing in front of the camera and a group of imaginary judges, Ramsay confesses details about his personal history--early experiences of queer desire and his Eastern European roots--while appropriating audio and video fragments from various musical sources including Tatu, Madonna, and The Smiths. Audition Tape shows satirically how someone can forsake his or her identity in exchange for approval, love, and adulation.
Ariela Plotkin, an Israeli musician and video artist, rebels against ideals of womanhood in both sacred and secular realms. Her proud, zaftig figure does not conform to "Julia Roberts" beauty standards, and her sexy gaze undermines religious models of piety and modesty. The title of her video Aishet Chayil (Woman of Valor) refers to a hymn from Proverbs that husbands sing to their wives on the Sabbath. Rather than celebrating a woman's charm and beauty, the traditional Hebrew poem praises her industriousness, charity, honor, and wisdom. For her music video soundtrack, Plotkin borrows an adaptation of Roy Orbison's Pretty Woman by Schlock Rock, an Orthodox band specializing in parody. With an aggressive post-feminist attitude, Plotkin struts in high heels on a treadmill to earnest lyrics that laud Biblical heroines.
Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay was born in Montreal in 1973. He has presented single-channel videos and live performances in festivals and galleries including the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Transmediale (Berlin), Globalica International Media Art Biennale in Wroclaw, Poland, the 2005 Prague Biennale, the Center for Media Art (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany, Videozone, and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Ariela Plotkin was born in Israel in 1976. Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, the Center for Contemporary Art (Tel Aviv), Videozone International Video Art Biennial in Israel, and the International Festival of Video Poetry in Buenos Aires.
Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay (Canadian, born 1973)
Audition Tape, 2003
Courtesy of the artist