Artist's Statement: Omer Fast on his Artes Mundi Prize-nominated film, Continuity

Omer Fast interviewed by Mark Sheerin | 07 October 2014

In the latest of our Artist's Statements we hear from video artist Omer Fast, whose 40-minute film, Continuity, explores repetition and loss

Colour photo of an artist
Omer Fast© Image courtesy Artes Mundi
“We're showing a piece called continuity. It's a 40-minute long piece and it follows a German couple, middle aged, middle class or upper middle class, who appear to have lost a son after he went to Afghanistan and fought with the ISAF forces.

If we see the piece from the beginning, we watch them drive to a station. I should say we don't know if they’ve lost a son, but their son awaits them at the station and they meet him.

It's an emotional meeting; it’s the kind of thing that we have seen, I think, many times.

So we have a feeling that everything is good, everything is normal. And there are a couple of weird things which happen when they bring him home, which could be because the parents are over protective or slightly neurotic or stressed out.

Anyway, they have a dinner together and the son is uncomfortable and he says a couple of things which are a bit off-key and nothing big happens. He goes to bed and he says goodnight to his mother who crawls into bed with him and gives him a nice hug.

And then the following day or week or month we see the same couple driving to the same station and their son awaits them, but it's a different son. So that kind of scene, that kind of sequence, is repeated three times in the work each time with a different young man who's kind of playing that role.

I don't consider it a ‘highly political’ work. I think the work has a context and the context for me is the domestic interior of a particular family and the politics that accompany that are the things that we have any time that we show relationships: be it male-female, mother-father, mother son, son-mother.

The kind of triangulation that's at the core of the piece is something which gives it some tension and charge. I suppose if there is a politics to the work it begins in that living room or it begins in that bedroom and it extends possibly into the landscape around them .

That landscape is the bigger decisions about when and where we send young men to war and what happens to us when they come back. I think the notion that is much more central to my work rather than war or any of these topical issues is probably more structural and it has to do with repetition.

You have a scenario that appears to be almost like a TV movie, an emotional family reunion that becomes gradually disrupted by repetition, by the fact that the scene will repeat.

But with each repetition we have a kind of corruption, a change in the transformation, that we can’t account for if we want to hang on to a naturalistic understanding of plot or family dynamics or whatnot.

For me, the backstory in that piece is literally that these parents have a hobby. Their hobby is paying call-boys to come to their house to act out a particular scenario with them.

And whether they've lost somebody, whether it was a son in the war or they lost their mojo in bed or in their sex life or the romance, or that is an open question for me.

What the piece does literally is just, I suppose, show and confront the viewer with the notion of repetition at a domestic level and leaving the options open for what that involves or means.”

  • Artes Mundi 6 is various venues in Cardiff from October 25 2014 - February 22 2015. Visit artesmundi.org for more.

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Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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