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Omer Fast: Truth Bends and Decays As It Travels

Omer Fast: Truth Bends and Decays As It Travels

By the end of the process of six recollections, each story had become distorted beyond recognition.

Art Asia Pacific, Issue 68, May/Jun 2010

This is not a media critique: Omer Fast hasn’t got a bone to pick with the mass media. Nor does he have any coy postmodern gripes with the machinations of Hollywood or the motion-picture industry. Contrary to some of the persistent conventional wisdom about his work, he doesn’t have a particular problem with media manipulation—we are all conscious of how media constructs what we see and hear and shapes representations of the real, and Fast respects his audience enough to assume that basic awareness as a given. As he himself says, in typically understated and matter-of-fact fashion, at the conclusion of his breakthrough film The Casting (2007), “I’m more interested in the way that experience is basically turned into memory, and then the way that memories become stories, the way memories become mediated as they get recorded and broadcast.”

Fast speaks these lines on camera, as himself, or perhaps playing a certain rendition of himself as an artist director, while he interviews an American veteran of the Iraq War and attempts to explain how his films deconstruct and distort the stories that his films’ participants relate. Surrogates and proxies for the artist, played by actors, appear repeatedly in his work, his doppelgängers acting not only to insert some sort of authorial focal point for what is taking place, but also to account for what the artist admits may be his own sense of guilt in appropriating someone else’s real story and pulling it completely apart. It was The Casting, which grafts together the soldier’s personal recollections of two separate disturbing and violent incidents—one in Iraq, the other in Germany—and uses that material as the entry point for a multilayered and ambiguously nuanced meditation on the slippages of memory and the unstable representations of narrative, that won Fast the Whitney Museum American Art’s Bucksbaum Prize in 2008 and gave the 37-year-old Israeli-born artist a new level of notoriety.

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