Omer Fast, 5000 Feet Is the Best, 2011, still from a color video, 27 minutes.

Omer Fast, 5000 Feet Is the Best, 2011, still from a color video, 27 minutes.

Omer Fast

Kölnischer Kunstverein

Omer Fast, 5000 Feet Is the Best, 2011, still from a color video, 27 minutes.

Omer Fast’s film and video installations constitute one long reflection on media-based translations and abstractions of reality. Often he reuses motifs, producing variations on themes from previous works. His new two-part slide and video installation Her face was covered (Part One & Part Two), 2011, for instance, seems like an afterimage of another work from last year, 5000 Feet Is the Best, which stirred up a lot of excitement at the last Venice Biennale and was also shown here—along with Nostalgia, 2009, for which Fast won the Preis der Nationalgalerie für junge Kunst (National Gallery Prize for Young Art). As in 5000 Feet Is the Best, the new work centers around the figure of the drone pilot who, hidden in his digital workplace, carries out military interventions on the far side of the globe. At the same time, the piece plays up the discrepancy between what we hear or read and the images associated with this information: Both parts of the installation are based on the same tale of a drone pilot who receives orders to observe a woman and “take her out.” But while on one side we can view the preparations for filming a scene after the explosion of a bomb—a scene that corresponds to one in 5000 Feet Is the Best—in the second part of the work, a slide show, the same story is combined with images Fast found when he plugged each line of the text into an Internet image-search engine. Sometimes this results in absurd chance combinations, as when the sentence “Action has to be taken”—which earlier on amounted to the order to kill—is juxtaposed with a row of snow-covered cars; sometimes, however, these random images provide appropriate illustrations of the text.

Cyclically constructed, 5000 Feet Is the Best consists of almost identically reiterated sequences—for instance a staged interview between a drone pilot and an artist in a Las Vegas hotel room—in which minimal changes are introduced: variations in the actor’s reactions to the presence of a camera or his responses, which range from gruff to ironic, to the interviewer’s remark that he isn’t a “real” pilot, which in all cases leads to parallel filmic narratives. The sequences are interrupted in turn with excerpts from Fast’s real conversation with an actual former drone pilot. As usual when witnesses in documentaries need to be protected, his face has been rendered unrecognizable—an act that is itself a form of media-conscious staging whose artificiality differs only in degree from the staged interview scenes in the hotel or the filmic side narratives.

Every representation contains certain elements of the fictional, not least because memories, like those of the pilot in 5000 Feet Is the Best or the African refugee whose story forms the backbone of Nostalgia, proceed in a fundamentally reconstructive manner. The frequently cyclical structures of Fast’s films and the artful interweaving of various narrative strands in which individual motifs take on multiple meanings through subtle shifts of emphasis and context combine with the often spatially discontinuous arrangement of his film and video installations to undermine the illusion of a linear narrative and provide insight into the nature and modus operandi of filmic genres, images, and motifs. Yet he makes such skilled use of them that they seduce us nonetheless, achieving a degree of filmic complexity and reflection that includes our desire to be gripped and even deceived by images and stories.

Astrid Wege

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.