Wexner Center for the Arts announces Omer Fast: 2001/11

The Wexner Center for the Arts presents Omer Fast: 2001/11, on view May 19–August 5, 2012.

Omer Fast, “5000 Feet Is the Best,” 2011. Digital film, 30-minute loop.
Courtesy of gb agency, Paris, and Arratia Beer, Berlin. Still: Yonn Thomas.

Omer Fast: 2001/11 brings together two video works made a decade apart by Berlin-based, Israeli-born video artist Omer Fast. CNN Concatenated was initiated in 2001 in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. 5000 Feet Is the Best was completed in 2011 and unveiled to great acclaim at the Venice Biennale of that year. Together, these works provide neither a survey of the decade they bracket, nor a comprehensive view of Fast’s work over those 10 years. Rather, by focusing narrowly and with great acuity on two issues—media saturation in the case of CNN Concatenated and drone warfare in the case of 5000 Feet Is the Best—Fast’s videos throw into relief subjects that have helped define a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Omer Fast exhibition will be accompanied by an extensive gallery guide, featuring essays by Chief Curator of Exhibitions Christopher Bedford and art historian and critic T. J. Demos.

5000 Feet Is the Best (2011) deploys a suspenseful drama that plays with temporal structure and the unstable division between fact and fiction to deliver urgent allegorical-political messages in this age of “virtual” warfare. Through interviews with two drone pilots, one real and one fictional, the piece relates the peculiar experience of bombing distant lands from in front of a monitor, connecting electronically to an unmanned, missile-equipped plane flying 2 to 3 miles away from its objective—though 5,000 feet is ideal. From that distance the watcher can make out the target’s shoes, even while he or she can see or hear nothing—until it’s too late. Over the 30-minute running time, we return three times to the same hotel room, set-up, and conversation—or so it seems. In fact, each exchange leads to a different story, allegorizing the experience of drone warfare from both sides of the missile. Fast’s video blurs the divisions between reality and representation and builds on his recent projects, such as The Casting (2007), which explores the affective dimensions of warfare, and Nostalgia (2009), which reverses identities (e.g., dramatizing British refugees in Africa) to generate new forms of cross-cultural understanding.

CNN Concatenated (2001–02) offers a barrage of talking heads, all of them television anchors or news correspondents, without lingering on any single image or topic. The video recalls the generalized media frenzy that followed 9/11 and the obligation most people felt to monitor events using television coverage as their primary vehicle. It is, in essence, about a mode of address and its effects—the cognitive aesthetics of CNN and the application of those aesthetics to the coverage of the unfolding War on Terror. The word “concatenate” means to link or join together, particularly in a series or chain, a definition that describes perfectly the simple mechanism Fast uses to craft the beguiling swirl of non-information that plays relentlessly throughout the 18-minute loop. Within this chaotic bricolage, positions are asserted and opinions advanced, some direct, others elusive, but in each case the assertion is discrete and self-contained, never building to a unified conclusion. Instead, pieces and parts—sometimes impassioned, sometimes provocative, occasionally funny, and quite often absurd—are stitched together to make a new dissonant whole. Fast acknowledges the power and authority of televised mass communication, yet by turning that mode of address back on itself through a radical form of editing—by forcing the talking heads to speak his language—he advances the claim that even the most trenchant positions and the most powerful images are subject to revision.

Wexner Center for the Arts
The Ohio State University, Columbus
1871 N. High St.
Columbus, OH 43210
T 614-292-3535
wexarts.org

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