Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Omer Fast, Present Continuous, @ Jeu de Paume

Omer Fast, Continuity, 2012-2015, video HD, colour
I am always reluctant to applaud unreservedly the work of contemporary artists. It goes against the scholar in me who needs to be dry, measured and cautious in my approach to art. However, I will indulge this time because Omer Fast has to be one of the most brilliant young moving image makers working today. His current exhibition at the Jeu de Paume is masterful. I spent a long time upstairs at the Halsman exhibition, not realizing the Fast images were so long, so I only got to see one piece, Continuity, 2012-2015, 77 mins. But I am definitely going back for a repeat viewing of these pearls of audiovisual wisdom.

Omer Fast, Continuity, 2012-2015
Continuity touches on every major issue on the table: war, violence, death, teenage doping, drug pushing, murder, incest, homosexuality, terrorism, and there may be others. The film covers every major politically charged topic of conversation in circulation today. However, what makes it brilliant is not what it engages in representation, but how. Most masterful is the film’s editing. It follows the continuity logic, but across the cut changes characters, or places the same characters in discontinuous settings, or finds their behavior discontinuous with our expectations as they have been set up by the film thus far. Thus, it gives the impression of continuous narrative flow, it also plays with our sense of or our desire to have closure and explanation of what is going on, but we get none if it. We are constantly left frustrated, floundering as we attempt to navigate our way through the narrative in the way that the constant protagonists--a middle-aged, middle-class couple--navigate their way through the trauma of losing their son in Afghanistan.
Omer Fast, Continuity, 2012-2015
 It was only when I read the blurb on the film that I was actually able to make this sense of the narrative. We see different sons, at war, we see different sons returning, we see a very young son in civilian daily life buying drugs with stolen money. We see young soldiers in a homoerotic relationship, presumably one of which is the sone. Each fragmented vision bleeds into the next through conventional editing techniques and because of the techniques we think -- because this is how we are accustomed to read the logic of Hollywood film -- that there is a cause and effect logic. But 
there is not.

Omer Fast, Continuity, 2012-2015
The images are shocking, not only those that depict the violence of war, but images that show the subtle abuse of the father, the incest of the mother.  The mother reaches under the covers of the sleeping boy’s body, her hand moving slowly towards his crotch, the father kisses another one on the mouth, and another son, he aggressively makes him take out his tongue piercing, And when the three meet at dinner, the tensions begin to boil. 

Omer Fast, Continuity, 2012-2015
Continuity also asks how on earth we can begin to integrate the experiences of violence and trauma into our daily lives. Whether it be of war, of the death of a loved one, of the incongruity of murder, both on the homefront and the battlefield. We experience these extreme situations, in which there is no connection to daily life and yet, we have to connect to the experiences if we are to make sense of them, to live with them as humans in a world that we are compelled to hand on intact to the next generation. It’s not only the war in Afghanistan, but Fast’s own Israel, and all the other places where war in its multi-dimensions is experienced today. For Fast, these wars are only a breath away from incest, drugs, stealing. In Continuity, the repressed desires that get expressed in violent actions at home and at war are coming from the same place, all mixed up with nowhere to go.

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