I tend to pick up the habit that I look before I read. Sometimes I don't read the accompanying text and I make up meaning. Whether or not this is a good thing or not remains to be seen but it keeps me on my toes. With Omer Fast's productions you tend to be thrown into an idea and then you have to find your way through and eventually out of it. Remaining always looping, the beginning, middle and end merely merge instead of structuring the work.
I remember seeing a one of his video pieces in the 2010 Brighton Photo Biennial and it didn't sit right with me. Something about the subject he was approaching and how he dealt with it, and alongside his accompanying talk didn't seem to match ethically. But he deals with the fictional to tell us something. He tells us a question.
Most great art doesn't answer anything. It just asks us something we never considered. It is another way of looking, to borrow a title from Roland Barthes. What is art in today society? This is a question we are always striving to understand. Where does it sit with us? Are the general public going to exhibitions or is it just budding artists, photographers, sculptors and people who have an interest in culture? What happens after?
I'll tell you my experience. After a series of walks around Cardiff to get to various places I felt at peace with the whole city I used to loathe. The art scene for me seemed to lose its biting edge with predictable Ffotogallery show sand various other disappointments. The scene did not seem to match up with my expectation. Perhaps I was expecting too much.
Originally I had the intention to discuss the whole of Artes Mundi 6, but I felt entranced by the film on show by Omer Fast. At first it felt like it was a short film with cinematic qualities but it did not have the sensation of an art piece. I wondered where I had to pay £6 or £7 to get a ticket to see this. Where on earth was my popcorn!? After this sensation settled I placed myself in the routine, thinking of the beautiful yet older features of the actress playing the wife in a crude but emotional story. Freiberg, or a name of that ilk was the subject of people being picked up in what looks like a car only available through a steady salary. There was a kid of about 19 picked up and taken back to the hostile family home, full of over bearing mothers and fathers that were a little off. Unlike in Omer's earlier work he toned down the idea of people removed from reality. Where it was once prominent it then became a secondary tool to say something about the nature of war. I no nothing about war, nor do I really agree with it, but the idea seeped into every sense I had. I couldn't look away. The tones were rich and so brilliantly crafted. I was swimming in tones of green and pale beige. Silver and grey, black and brown all created a sense of sterilization. Compelling scenes of a mother and child embracing after months and months of waiting. The tension lingered in the air. It was a tension that did not demand attention, nor did it over power the audience of 3 beside me. It just took me.
The beauty of not reading anything about the work is that you don't know what will happen. It is like going to the cinema and not watching the trailer. The sense of expectation falls. In ignoring this clue placed in the brief biography of the work the work could take hold of my imagination and I felt a real sense of thought. Something a lot of work fails to do. The subject was of no interest to me, but it managed to achieve this which is the mark of a great body of work.
I remember hearing chuckles and nervous chatter as the mother took physical acts between son and parent to a point where something was up. It didn't fit. There was a lie brewing as the same scenario repeats itself with a different person. Was this the other brother? Where did the other one go? Why were they going back into the room where he is? Where was the other sleeping. How unfortunate was it that they had three sons go off to war but for them to treat them all as if he was their only son?
This repetition not only made me engrossed in the finale but it made me consider reactions to war and the young age they go to battle. This is a well documented subject, but sometimes you need to create fiction to discuss truth. In being a fictional narrative and knowingly so, it was an idea instead of documentation. It had no context, no real personal utterances, just lies.
Isn't that was art does best? To create lies and discuss things that we might feel uncomfortable with or have no recollection of our own feelings towards. It is the gallery space in true song. And to consider how this related and worked with or against documentary values, there was no comparison. It made me completely reconsider what a photograph should even mean and why they stand on their own, or why I even have a camera. On the walk back all I could see were cliched photographs of street photographers and pointless bullshit we churn out in university, and it made me consider whether or not we are likely really achieve this greatness with photographs alone. They are so static, so easily digestible and too damn simple. A photograph, in this instance felt like a tiny stone in a massive lake. It made me really consider its power as a medium.
This is not to say the photograph cannot function, in fact quite the opposite. But it built a revolution in my head to invade traditional ideas of what a 'project' should be. A project should contain an idea and the way that idea is portrayed should depend on the subject. We should not be fitting photography to ideas but ideas to different mediums. I think with this attitude we might just break the surface a few more times than the occasional outstanding piece of work. It is a height I don't feel photography has even got close too, although it has the potential to reach.
For more information on Omer Fast and Artes Mudi follow the link here