Omer Fast’s video work draws our attention to the fine line between documentary and fiction, between individual memory and collective history. Interested in the way memory is turned into stories and then further changed by recording and broadcasting techniques, Fast is best known for tying together multiple factual and fictional narratives using a variety of digital strategies. “I was mostly looking for documentary subjects with controversial histories: individuals with firsthand experience of inauthentic or staged events,” Fast recently noted about his earlier work.
Accordingly, for his two-channel piece Spielberg’s List (2003), Fast interviewed Polish extras from Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993) who played Jews or Nazis in the movie and were also old enough to have lived through the actual events in the 1940s. Returning to the movie’s locations, Fast shot footage at Spielberg’s faithfully reconstructed concentration camp in Kraków, Poland, thus mixing history and its dramatization, as extras “come to figure as authentic witnesses to a representation,” as the artist put it. Similarly, Fast’s two-channel installation Godville (2005) includes greatly manipulated interviews with three inhabitants of Colonial Williamsburg, effectively questioning the presentation of history in the context of a theme park.
With Looking Pretty for God (After G. W.), Fast wanted to “strip down the process and create a piece that spoke about the human condition more simply.” Commissioned by Manifesta 7 (the European Biennial of Contemporary Art) and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Fast’s single-channel projection appears to focus on the technical aspects of a mortician’s job. Combining footage from a fictional photo shoot of children and interior shots of funeral homes with off-camera interviews with funeral directors, Fast manages to relate two very distinct industries—mortuary services and fashion photography—emphasizing their involvement in the construction and artifice of images. Using cinematic tools like tracking shots and editing to the fullest, Fast has created a new narrative that compels viewers to contemplate the cycle of life.
Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art