Paola Morsiana Curator of Contemporary Art
The Casting (portions of selected stills) 2007. Omer Fast (Israeli, born Jerusalem, 1972; active Berlin).Four-channel video installation, color, sound; 14 min.(edition 4/6). Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2009.8.1–4 © Omer Fast
Since the early 1960s, film and video have been widely used by contemporary artists, who employ them in an ever-expanding variety of expressions. Now designated as “moving image media”—in order to include digitized production and monitor-based or projection installations but to distinguish such works from the motion-picture medium—film and video in museum galleries have marked a shift in the viewer’s experience of the work of art.
Dependent on light and defined by duration, the moving image fades in from a darkened environment and evolves through time. The projection is a three-dimensional site that the viewer can move through to different standpoints and thus break away from the illusion on screen. Unfolding through movement, discrete chronologies overlap in the projected image: the progress of the fiction on screen; the length of the projection in the gallery, oftentimes looped ad infinitum; and the viewer’s own time and peripatetic choices. As a result, the artwork subsists as a unique moment for each viewer.
Principally, the projected image has introduced the viewer to a stronger participatory encounter with representation or narration, and over the past five decades artists have exploited this dynamic in groundbreaking work. To different degrees, they have intervened in the mechanism and the space of the projection, questioned the conventions of representation and narration, and investigated the engagement of the spectator.
Among the most compelling contributions of this decade, the work of Omer Fast examines mass media’s alteration of memory as it interweaves personal and universal experiences against the background of immediate historical events. The interview format recurs in his work. Through a creative editing process, factual sources assume a newly meaningful form in his video installations. Viewers are asked to become aware of their belief systems, the passage of time as they internalize history, and the multiple perspectives any communicated experience entails.
In Spielberg’s List (2003), for instance, Fast interviewed extras who had acted in the film Schindler’s List (1993). Against the camp stage set in Krakow, Poland, the interviewees appear to be Holocaust survivors until viewers realize that they are speaking about acting. Yet many of these extras are in fact actual survivors, and the viewers’ understanding of the actors’ emotions is now filtered through a longer and complex accumulated memory.
The Casting (2007) is based on an actual interview with a U.S. Army sergeant who was stationed in Germany and then served in Iraq. In the installation, the soldier’s recollections provide a unifying soundtrack to the tableaux vivants reenacting disparate moments. The seamless narration, however, has been spliced together and extended to include the artist’s process of auditioning actors for his work. Positioned at the back of the installation, the interview plays the role of “reality” as the more theatrical images are projected at the front. While the narrator’s speech remains casual, the tightly rendered tableaux vivants borrow from the stereotypical language of mass media even as the segments represent an ongoing human drama. Partitioned screens in The Casting encourage an open-ended experience of the video, offering a perspective on the Iraq conflict that takes into account actual lives as opposed to only the political content.
Fast, now based in Berlin, was born in 1972 in Jerusalem, Israel. He obtained a BA/BFA from Tufts University/School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 1995, and an MFA from Hunter College, CUNY, in 2000. Since then, he has produced more than ten multi-projection installations. He has won a number of prizes for his work, including the 2009 Preis der Nationalgalerie für junge Kunst, Berlin and the 2008 Bucksbaum Award from the Whitney Museum of American Art.
I hope you will join me in welcoming Omer Fast to Cleveland when he presents a talk in the museum’s Recital Hall on Friday, July 9 at 7:00 p.m.
Cleveland Art, July/August 2010