– Spring 2009

From Homer to Omer Fast

Elisabeth Lebovici

A number of recent video installations by Omer Fast make distinctive use of the same cinematic figure: the travelling shot. 1 Moving from left to right and back again, as regular as a pendulum, this lateral travelling is a vehicle of transition. It leads us without cut or suture from one scene to another: from apartment to apartment in De Grote Boodschap (the Big Message, 2007), or from a photographic studio to a funeral home in Looking Pretty for God (2008).

Repeated slowly several times, the movement of the shot also figures the narrative as an endless oscillation between description and fiction, or rather between documenting and fictionalising, in the performative sense of two actions - two ways of constructing a story. De Grote Boodschap threads several stories through four scenes, each featuring a pair of characters, drawing them along behind the needle's eye of the travelling camera that links the different rooms (kitchen, living room, bedroom) of the location. The travelling shot in Looking Pretty For God connects a funeral parlour to a photographer's studio, where make-up is being applied to children. Once more, the camera movement connects the narrative told through undertakers' voices to a series of sites that slowly follow one upon the other: from the coffin showroom to the embalming laboratory with its equipment, and then to the photographic studio where children are prepared to pose - corpses in potentia - for the artist in front of his camera, and onwards. But new associations render the narration more complex: the children, for example, are lip-synching the words of an undertaker. Similarly, in De Grote Broodschap, a fragment of conversation

  1. Fast's most recent works are De Grote Bootschap (2007) shown at gb agency, Paris; Looking Pretty for God (2008) at Manifesta 7, and Take a Deep Breath (2008) at the Liverpool Biennial, which I did not have the opportunity to see when writing this essay.

  2. Omer Fast studied in New York and currently lives in Berlin.

  3. See Joanna Fiduccia's interview 'Omer Fast: A Multiple "I"', Uovo, 17 April 2008, pp.156-76.

  4. Tom Holert, 'Attention Span: The Art of Omer Fast', Artforum, February 2008, pp.229-35.

  5. 'Passages de l'image' was the title of an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in 1990.

  6. Jorge Luis Borges, 'Partial Magic in the Quixote', Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings

  7. See Mark Godfrey, 'Making History', frieze, March 2006, p.130-33.

  8. Gérard Genette, Métalepse: De la figure à la fiction, Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2004.

  9. G. Genette, Figures III, Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1972, p.244. English translation from G. Genette, Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method (trans. Jane E. Lewin), Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1980, p.236.

  10. See Omer Fast (exh. cat.), Paris: gb agency, 2002, n.p.

  11. Leo Strauss, Persecution and the Art of Writing, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988, p.32.