Academic journal article Afterimage

Duplicated Replications: The Interventions of Omer Fast

Academic journal article Afterimage

Duplicated Replications: The Interventions of Omer Fast

Article excerpt

In a recent interview, Omer Fast asserted that much of his interest as a video artist and filmmaker is "grounded on media: e.g., the impact television was having on the way my generation experienced reality and how we recall and retell it." (1) He has qualified that assertion by stating elsewhere: "There is a shorthand way of reading my work as a media critique, which is pretty much a dull and dead end as far as I'm concerned." (2) Between impact, experience, and critique, Fast seems to approach the media from a perspective that is clearly stated at the end of The Casting (2007), when his alter-ego (a director conducting auditions) says that he is not interested in exploring a "political angle" in the film he is making, but rather how experience turns into memory, and then becomes stories that are "mediated ... recorded, and then broadcast." In view of the piece, this may seem rather reductive and self-evident but its frankness anchors its purpose and asserts an authorial commitment to its goals. If the transition of live experience to reproduced memory and simulated reality is indeed a large concern for Fast, his work questions what narratives and histories these transformations produce. In our ultra-mediated world, how might the excess of reproductions affect our experiential apprehension of the world, no less our comprehension of the past? Mid-twentieth century cultural philosopher Walter Benjamin announced the eclipse of the aura-infused object to its mechanically reproduced image and theorized the attendant shifts in perception this seismic change inaugurated. Fast seems to have concerns about the same fate for experience itself, as it is replaced through multiple forms of replication, duplication, and recreation.

Fast's earlier work demonstrated a more direct interventionist stance toward the media. In T3-AEON (2000), fast, altered then returned video store copies of The Terminator (1984) to include disturbing personal anecdotes that interrupt the film's soundtrack. In CNN Concatenated (2002), a single-channel video, he created a phantasmagoric narrative out of 10,000 words spoken by a series of CNN newscasters he recorded alter September 11, 2001. This "mass of borrowed words," he said, is "an aggregate of what's out there, in public, on the air."(3) Through cutting, splicing, and using single words and short phrases, Fast edited eighteen minutes of talking heads into an imaginary narrative driven by manipulation, need, abuse, and desire. Fast explained that his technique of "interventions these conspicuous cuts and splices in the footage ... highlight what is generally suppressed in narratives that are based on the real."(4) Thus, what begins as a combination of words strung into seemingly factual sentences becomes increasingly ominous and devolves into derangement, abuse, and need: "I need to know that I'm being understood," the staccato of newscasters announce, "that I'm alive ... We've developed a taste for each other's weaknesses ... that we thrive on consuming each other ... I feel more alone in your company ... no more than ever."

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Fast's subsequent work seems more firmly sealed in the process of transcription itself by examining the change that occurs as events and experiences travel toward their recreations, fabrications, reenactments, and reproductions. In "Godville" (2005), a two-channel video installation, Fast interviewed actors at the historic theme park in Colonial Williamsburg, then aggressively cut and spliced the piece to highlight the discordance produced between contemporary reality and fabricated reenactment. However, not all his work posits replication and reproduction as products of an increasingly mediated landscape, but rather as a generative process of narrative function itself. A recent piece he created for Performs 09 dramatized this process of transformation. For Talk Show (2009), Fast used the format from the game "Broken Telephone" to depict how a single story, told by an invited guest, might transform when it is repeated down a chain of professional actors. …

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