Omer Fast at South London Gallery

Omer Fast’s film installation Nostalgia is a good example of how material is formatted to fit the institution of art. This is not a criticism of Fast or his work; everyone has to survive in a capitalist society, and in doing so we all reproduce our own alienation.  It should go without saying that the creation of a society where all distinctions between high and low culture are abolished in favour of a truly human world is a pressing task – but in the meantime, where I’m forced to choose between art and popular culture, I’d opt for the latter most of the time. That said, it is hard to see how Fast and his fabulous films could operate outside the art arena in this society. To make my own experience of Fast’s current London show a little more like mass culture and less like elite art, I walked through the gallery to watch the main feature Nostalgia III before taking in parts I and II. If Nostalgia were a DVD, part III would be the feature and I and II the extras.
Nostalgia III is a 30 minute sci-fi short. The set dressing indicates it takes place in an alternate version of the 1970s or possibly 1980s. Europe is impoverished and many of its inhabitants are fleeing to north Africa, where as illegal migrants they face a militarised border, brutality and the ongoing threat of deportation. As ever, Fast is poetic in his approach, deploying a collection of interlinked stories that undermine each other and thus raise questions about the ways in which truth is constructed. Nonetheless, given that Fast has made this piece for a gallery audience, his deliberately crude reversal of European bigotries is an astute move: white middle-class institutional racism is so deeply embedded in high culture that the kind of subtleties which would be understood by a broader audience will inevitably be lost on most of those who will see this piece in its current setting.
Nostalgia I and II feature individual soundtrack interviews with an Africa migrant now living in Europe. I shows a European male in combat gear making a snare as described on the soundtrack.  II shows an interview taking place on split-screens. Both reveal a part of the research process from which Fast created Nostalgia III, and are very much supplementary to the longer piece. It takes 45 minutes to view all three works, and I spent just over a hour in the gallery; during this time I was one of six people actually looking at the work. However, while I was watching Nostalgia III there was a constant stream of people walking through the gallery from the offices and outside area that are accessed from back of the building – far more than were actually looking at the work. This may have been exacerbated by the fact that the gallery is currently being extended (the work of specialist art builders John Perkins Projects), but it nonetheless illustrates why art venue are often not the best places in which to display film. There was also a problem with sound bleed between the galleries (despite a lot of very visible and thus presumably cheaply installed soundproofing); and a further irritation with the screen of Nostalgia I being insufficiently blacked out. Despite these problems, do try to catch Fast’s Nostalgia if you can, it is on until 6 December 2009.
For stuff about Fast’s contribution to the 2008 Barbican exhibition On War, click here.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by The Great English National Imbreds Front on 2009-11-05 11:53:20 +0000

Was it anyhow related to the movie Tarkovsky did in Italy in 1983 ?

Comment by fi on 2009-11-05 12:33:55 +0000

lots of good points raised there

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-11-05 12:50:49 +0000

I guess there is the theme of homeland running through both Nostalgia’s but otherwise I couldn’t see any big connection to the Andrei Tarkovsky movie of the same name…..

Comment by Simon on 2009-11-05 14:04:39 +0000

Our Kenyan/Welsh bloods will be hopping on the 36 to see this. Humane beings, yes?

Comment by Simon Evans on 2009-11-05 17:39:02 +0000

How do you know they’re not fake?

Comment by Blakey (from ‘On The Buses’) on 2009-11-05 19:29:36 +0000

I ‘ate you Butler!

Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-11-05 20:40:41 +0000

Sounds like a filmic almost groove sensation, although I much prefer art to popular culture. Regrettably, I find myself unable to escape the latter, which only amplifies my alienation, which has been reproduced to the point of exhausting the toner in the copier….

Comment by Bad Music Foundation on 2009-11-06 09:31:52 +0000

Sounds like a no no to us, good film is no more thrilling than good music, give us bad every time!

Comment by Friends of Art on 2009-11-06 10:42:37 +0000

You are too harsh about art, it makes the world a better place. All art coz art is love!

Comment by Club Bullshit Berlin on 2009-11-06 10:55:13 +0000

I really liked the bit about the milkmaid, and you know what they say about women with big hands!

Comment by Homer Slow (nee Simpson) on 2009-11-06 11:44:16 +0000

Dude, my brain hurts! Doh!

Comment by Ned Ward on 2009-11-06 22:52:40 +0000

keep it real!

Comment by The Fake Omer Fast on 2009-11-06 23:54:35 +0000

Nice review but maybe more on the building works would have been good… very post Carl Andre if you ask me….

Comment by Omar Sharif on 2009-11-07 00:31:33 +0000

It is us actors gonna save the world baby! Artists and directors ain’t so important….

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