The Casting by Omer Fast is contemporary video art that features narratives about love and war while grappling with questions of memory and recollection. In this dialogue, Paola Morsiani, curator of contemporary art, shares her thoughts about this artwork which is currently on view at the museum. The Casting was acquired by the museum in 2008. Fast will talk about his work in a free presentation at the museum on Friday, July 9, at 7:00 p.m.
Q: What makes video art so interesting?
A: Video art was born in the age of television. Artists, who are generally drawn to new technologies, quickly realized the very creative potential of video, beyond the commercial use of television. Video art has allowed for more interaction with the art viewer. The Casting is a combination of documentary and theater, which gives the work an intensity that is different from a feature film.
Q: What are some of the things that are important to note about this artwork?
A: The Casting calls to viewers to look at the question of truth—uncovered and deconstructed—in a very powerful way. Though the video installation may appear simple, it is actually very complex. The artist uses editing as a powerful technique to communicate the question of how we remember and recollect what happens to us. As you know, memory and recollection depend on “editing” as well.
The Casting is now part of our collection, and we bought it because of its strength and significance in recent contemporary art. Our collection evolves this way; we acquire artworks that we deem having great impact in the history of the arts.
Q: What are some of the themes/issues you think are addressed when viewing The Casting?
A: Contemporary art always faces issues that might be difficult to take in. The Casting brings to mind a host of questions, and every viewer may see something different. I see themes related to pain and pleasure, war and religion, communication and miscommunication, private and collective spheres. And the list grows longer every time I watch it again, its tableaux vivants and intriguing editing process.
Video art is also about the choice to view a little bit or a lot of it. The video is 14 minutes long, but if you do not have the time to watch it all, you still go away with the view that you have taken in during the time you have chosen to stay. That's another theme of the work that you'll discover once you view it—"There is another side." You'll understand that better once you see how it is set up! In any case, The Casting is truly captivating, and I see that people remain rather glued to their seats.
Q: What made this installation so challenging?
A: There is precision in this exhibition, down to the smallest detail, following Omer’s concept for the installation of this artwork. The open nature of the narrative in the video asks for each viewer to piece it back together. So, this is a three-dimensional site, with four projections, two on each side, and viewers move around the projected images. The room had to be designed to the right size. The installation is built much like a work of sculpture. So, for example, the wire that holds the floating screens is connected to them seamlessly, with no hooks. Or, because sound is a crucial component and gives unity to the sequence of images, the speakers are installed at precise spots and angles. And so on.
Q: What do you hope visitors will be exposed to during the conversation with the artist this Friday, July 9?
A: It is always a very unique opportunity to meet an artist and ask him why he made something. Omer is a very bright person and very engaging. We are grateful that he could make time to come to Cleveland from Berlin, where he lives. This is an opportunity to ask him why he chose to create this installation the way that he did. And, "Where do you stand on the issues in the video? Does your video take a stand? Why are there so many projections? Why did you choose such an elaborate installation?” When you meet an artist you can learn how an artwork was made. You learn how an artwork was born out of a very concrete moment in the artist’s activity, which may parallel our lives more closely than we know, or be very different.
Q: Is this an artwork with a political angle, particularly since it largely involves the narrative of U.S. soldier in the Iraq war?
A: Yes, but not in the way you expect. It's not politics as in political parties, but in the deepest meaning of the word, which includes how our daily lives are never disconnected from the larger events that shape society and mark history.
-- Kesha Williams