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The art of Omer Fast: the art of Omer Fast
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posted on 24.02.2017by Warren, Kate
This thesis is the first scholarly monographic study of the work of contemporary artist Omer Fast (born 1972), covering his entire artistic output. Fast’s practice astutely reads and taps into many pressing and confronting social and political issues of twenty-first century Western culture. Through close analysis of his earliest mature artworks through to his most ambitious installations, I argue that Fast’s practice is characterised by various strategies of repetition that amplify the internal instabilities, tensions and controversies within his topics of enquiry.
This thesis is ordered around a structure of ‘variations upon a theme’. The introduction and first chapter establish the theme of repetition and each subsequent chapter develops its own variation. Chapter Two establishes the crucial figure of ‘the witness’ and Chapter Three explores the centrality of ‘translation’ in Fast’s creative approach. These initial chapters all argue for a number of core conceptual devices and techniques that characterise Fast’s practice: the paradoxical interplays between repetition of sameness and difference; imitation and mimicry as enabling an immanent rather than distanced critique; a continual dissonance between visual and linguistic systems; Fast’s various modes of re-tellings and re-imaginings that counter a singular notion of an ‘origin’; and his use of looped and circular narrative structures that introduce overlapping and multiple layers of temporality.
Repetition defines many formal elements of Fast’s practice, and it also enables him to extend his topics of enquiry into broader social and political contexts. The second half of this thesis explores this as I position Fast’s practice against a widespread trend in contemporary art practice and theory, the ‘historiographic turn’. Fast’s strong interest in re-enactment displays counter- archaeological tendencies, in which his works actively add as many layers of meaning as they uncover. Furthermore, by doubling and repeating himself into various pieces, Fast perpetuates a parafictional persona, refusing to draw concrete distinctions between documentary and fiction. This parafictional quality is connected to a broader cultural and media phenomenon where the realms of fantasy and reality become conceptually and practically entangled. The final chapter explores tangible examples in Fast’s practice where the artist’s creative interventions have become implicated within contested political situations.
Instability and multiplicity of meaning are always embodied in the topics that Fast approaches. Yet just as his works resolutely resist closure and conclusions, the paradoxical nature of repetition cannot be resolved, for it is the tension between familiarity and difference that brings about its productive potential. This thesis reinscribes and reiterates a renewed understanding of repetition as a constructive force within contemporary artist practice, and it also makes an important contribution to debates around the use of the moving image in contemporary art practice.