Omer Fast

Omer Fast, Take a Deep Breath (video still), 2008

Omer Fast, Take a Deep Breath (video still), 2008

There is a countdown, a slate is clapped and then we hear the following: ‘That morning I took off from work for an hour or so. I went with my wife on a few chores. When I came back I decided to go for lunch. I headed for my favourite Falafel place on Prophets Street. Within fifteen seconds I heard this boom. Not as noisy as you’d really expect. And I saw smoke emerging from the Falafel place. The plate glass window was all shattered. There’s complete silence. Maybe a few car alarms go off. There’s glass on the sidewalk. And the first thing that really hits me is a human arm by the door.’

The voice belongs to Martin F, a trained medic in Jerusalem who in 2002 found himself in the aftermath of a bombing. He describes how he entered the wreckage of the shop and discovered the body of a young man who had lost both legs and an arm to the explosion. Acknowledging in retrospect that it was irrational, Martin F nevertheless administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The man died in his arms. Leaving the shop moments later Martin spoke to two police offers waiting outside. During their conversation he realised that the body inside was that of a suicide bomber.

In Omer Fast’s video installation for MADE UP entitled Take a Deep Breath (2008), Martin’s story is portrayed in two films, projected simultaneously across two staggered screens. Mixing several languages, genres and techniques of cinema – fiction, melodrama, documentary, slapstick, still and moving image – Fast unraveled the intricate and murky processes through which historical facts are established and recorded. So much of the formation of contemporary history takes place and is solidified through word and image in the media. As Take a Deep Breath makes explicit via its narrator, this is typically caught up within the inherently mediated interaction between an event and an individual, even before subjection to editorial licence.

Fast’s video, in its twisting and turning from narrative to narrative, fact to facade, pain to humour, confronts our media-informed assumption that martyrs are generic beings without name, history or character with a distant cause in some more distant place. Without pause, images of the conflict and death in the Middle East bombard viewers to the point at which the people depicted are cast into templates and types – into roles that have become generic, with a cause that’s almost incidental.

As the fractured double plots of the video unfold in take after failed take, the bomber is ‘revived’ only to be sacked. He then steals the director’s mobile phone in recompense and uses it to call the ‘real’ police who end up disrupting the shoot. As the events proceed and recollections and re-enactments entangle, we become more and more aware of our need to identify with the images and establish their purpose. At the same time, Fast undercuts the cathartic resolution of the story, letting facts compete for attention with genre.

Omer Fast at Liverpool Biennial 2008

Take a Deep Breath, 2008
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2008
Exhibited at Tate Liverpool

Supported by

Manchester Collection
Contemporaine Postmasters
New York gb agency
Paris Centre National des Arts Plastiques
Hanover Kunstverein, Hanover