Omer Fast, Present Continuous, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead

BALTIC presents the first solo UK exhibition by Omer Fast, best known for his video works that question the conventions of storytelling, media reportage and historical representation. The Jerusalem-born, Berlin-based artist employs cinematic techniques and complex narrative structures to explore the ways in which stories, and consequently history and identity, are formed. Undermining the divide between reality and representation and between document and artifice, his practice also interrogates the status of the image itself.

Two new works have been specially created for this touring exhibition. Continuity (Diptych), 2015, co-commissioned by BALTIC and Jeu de Paume, Paris, is an expansion of Fast’s Continuity, 2012. The 78 minute-long film examines the subject of loss and grief as a young German soldier returns home. Strange anomalies and inexplicable repetitions turn the story from family melodrama into a nightmare scenario. Spring, which receives its international premiere at BALTIC, recreates the assassination of a political figure recorded entirely on mobile phones by protagonists and witnesses alike. The many screens comprising the installation are arranged into an engulfing, disorienting, larger-than-life environment with the viewer as its centre.

This exhibition will also present several installation and projection-based works. CNN Concatenated 2002 is an 18 minute-long video collage edited from thousands of individual words spoken by presenters on the Cable News Network. The footage is reconstructed to form a disconcerting poetic narrative with an underlying sense of threat. 5,000 Feet is the Best, 2011, is underpinned by an interview Fast conducted with a former operator of Predator drones. The 30-minute film weaves together the operator’s account of his life and work along with scenes depicting crimes in and around Las Vegas. More recently, Everything that Rises Must Converge, 2013, follows four adult film performers during their day at work. The 56 minute film is presented as four simultaneous projections.

Despite the often overt political content, the narrative constructions and deviations of Fast’s videos ensure they transcend the issues he at first seems to address. It is, rather, the traditions of storytelling and its role in creating fact and identity that is central to his work.

Omer Fast, Present Continuous, 18 March – 26 June, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, South Shore Road, NE8 3BA.

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1. Omer Fast, Continuity (Diptych), 2012-2015.© Omer Fast. Courtesy of Jeu de Paume.