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Nostalgia I, II, III
Video installation Nostalgia I: single-channel HD video (colour, sound) Nostalgia II: two-channel HD video (synchronised, colour, sound) Nostalgia III: Super 16 mm film transferred to HD video (colour, sound)
Dimensions: Nostalgia I: 4' 35'' Nostalgia II: 9' 49'' Nostalgia III: 31' 48'' Variable dimensions
We have all at some time felt the need to tell a story, to share an event, to recount an experience. And from these stories – imagined or based on real events – we have built up our reality and our view of the world. But how does a story take shape? How does memory influence the narrative act? What narrative elements determine how a story is understood and interpreted? Omer Fast’s audiovisual pieces emerge in response to these questions. His work is based on stories and personal experiences recounted by eyewitnesses. Because they are stories, there is little room for certainties. One reason for this is that their reality or authenticity is brought into question. While Fast often uses the interview format as a strategy for approaching reality, his intention is not to discover the truth about certain events, but rather the truth that emerges from the accounts and representations. In his films and videos, which he sometimes presents in installations that feature several projections, Fast rescues stories related to a wide variety of individuals and events. These stories are then offered up to viewers after an elaborate editing process. Fast manipulates his characters and alters scenes, and – as if the whole process were an exercise in reanimation – the stories take on new life, acquire new sequences, or are recomposed with different shapes. In all his works, Fast is able to conserve the original story: even if the narrative he presents is completely fictional, it is built up from the original narrator’s words and gestures, which allows the artist to keep it anchored in the real world. Nostalgia (2009) is an emotionally intense production with a complex narrative structure and an intriguing script that establish an ambiguous relationship with reality. This piece is based on memories of events involving violence, pain and loss, though their representation is guided by the logic of fiction. Nostalgia, is a work in which Omer Fast brings us the story of an African refugee seeking asylum in Britain. «All my skills, my thoughts, everything about me is locked inside», says the asylum seeker at the start of the video that opens the installation. Although Fast’s intent is clearly more political in Nostalgia, he gives free rein to his narrative skill, selecting an anecdote from the account the interviewee gives of his experiences as a child soldier to represent the drama of his story. The building of a rudimentary partridge trap from sticks becomes the narrative thread that links a series of stories in a filmic interplay of transferences. Nostalgia comprises three separate spaces where the three chapters of the work are shown in different formats. The first video shows a white man dressed as a hunter or gamekeeper building a trap while a voice describes how this is done. In the second space, a two-channel projection uses actors to recreate – as if in a casting session – the interview with the young African immigrant the artist had met in London. During the conversation, which takes place in a tense atmosphere due to the young man’s contradictory statements, the interviewee remembers how he was taught to make a trap. The third chapter is in the style of a science fiction thriller. The scene is clearly set in the 1970s, but the events that unfold reveal that the action takes place in the future. Britain has fallen into decline and the country’s people seek to illegally enter Africa, which has become the promised land. The story about the trap is repeated, though its meaning changes as it is adapted to different contexts, just as oral histories have been passed down over time. Finally, a young girl chooses to describe the partridge trap for a ‘show and tell’ project about traditional practices. The trap is a metaphor for the transmission of knowledge and experience. Human history has been nourished by stories through which we have gained knowledge of the world, and these stories are something we cannot do without.