Interview - Omer Fast

Having produced artist films for gallery spaces since 2002, Remainder marks the first time Omer Fast has created work for the cinema. For him the differences are numerous, not least because of the change in the exhibition space creating different experiences and expectations from audiences. “I see the two communities as two separate economies, each governed by completely different rules for the production, dissemination and even reception of ideas.”

The cinematic form too appealed for very specific reasons, offering a chance to explore new ideas and engage with a new method of exhibition. “Cinema is very seductive because it offers a chance to create a little world and disappear in it. It offers superb visual and acoustic conditions. But it’s a passive experience because it’s very sedentary and cloistered. Art spaces tend to be more open and chaotic, more unforgiving for a work that requires concentration. But they enable a richer dialog with space – material space and social space – and definitely foster more experimentation.” “A short film is like a short story: What’s not there is as important as what’s there. Defamiliarizing the familiar is also very important. Having a critical perspective.”

Even when switching modes and forms, or between fiction and non-fiction, Fast is keen to stress the fragility of such borders and the problems with cutting such clean divides. “I treat all of the interviews that I do – and on which I base my work – as fiction. There is an ethical problem in doing that, of course, especially since many of the subjects I’m drawn to have experienced suffering in a very real way. But it allows me to take the liberties I need to take with their stories and that (to paraphrase none other than Ezra Pound) is the higher morality of art.”

Remainder, based on the popular novel by Tom McCarthy has been a part of Fast’s life for much longer than the period of production, as have the ideas it contains. “As a graduate student in New York, I tried to convince the manager of a local Chase Manhattan Bank to allow me to stage a robbery as a kind of performance art. My idea was to have the robbery repeat, over and over, as a side show to the actual banking taking place, without necessarily alerting the public about it beforehand. Needless to say, my meeting with the branch manager, though cordial, was very short and the idea was filed away and promptly forgotten. I read Remainder about ten years later and must have recognised something familiar in the protagonist.”

The text, despite being the first literary adaptation he has been involved with, and the first fictional feature he was made, was a comfortable source for Fast, and cinema a rewarding medium to move to. “I feel at home in the world of fiction and have literally treated Remainder, the book, as just another interview. The main difference was not so much the source material but rather the process of developing the script. In the art world, the people who give you the money to make a new work are not involved at all in its production. Whereas cinema, at least as I’ve experienced it, is a very collaborative, deliberative process.”

Originally posted on the Shooting People blog.

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