Randal Fippinger on Omer Fast

How does reality and truth change based on our personal perspective? Is there such a thing as objective “truth” or is everything relative? These are some of the ideas that Israeli born, video and film artist Omer Fast is trying to explore. Fast, winner of the 2008 Whitney Museum’s Bucksbaum Award, uses video on multiple screens to represent the many possible perspectives of a story as well some of the possible realities.

Fasts’ 2009 work Talk Show attempts to examine how reality and truth morph as they each pass through the prism of a person’s individual experiences and perspective. Talk Show combines the children’s game “telephone” with a TV talk show interview setting. This 60- minute video installation starts with starts with Bill Ayers, the founder of the 60s protest group Weather Underground, telling a story to actor Tom Noonan. Our perspective is that of a member of the studio audience. Ayers’ story is a complex weave of his meeting and subsequent relationship with Diana Oughton in the mid-1960s as well as how that relationship ties into the larger conflicts of the period. By contemporary standards the Weather Underground would be considered “domestic terrorists.” Ms. Oughton died in 1970 preparing to bomb United States soldiers at Fort Dix in protest of the Vietnam conflict.

When Ayers fishiness his story he leaves the set. Noonan takes Ayers’ seat to become the “storyteller.” Actress Lili Taylor joins Noonan as the “listener.” The storyteller then tells the story as he/she understands it. When the storyteller is done he/she leaves, the listener then takes on the role of storyteller, and the cycle repeats. This happens four more times until Rosie Perez, the final storyteller, is telling the story back to Bill Ayers, the final listener. What started as a story of Vietnam-era conflict has been transformed into ‘Catholic high- school girls in trouble’ protesting the Iraq Conflict by Rosie Perez.

“I don’t deal directly with reality but with representations and stories,” says Fast. “The truth basis of what I’m doing is not interesting to me. In an act of storytelling, there is a truth.” That a story has been transformed at the end of a game of telephone is a given. The story only really becomes interesting in how it relates to the storyteller and the listener. In this case the listener is both the person onstage and we the audience members.

The “show” starts with the fittingly ambiguous question by Noonan to Ayers, “So, how did you get in this mess?” Reality is messy, it inevitable changes as it passes t teller to listener, each adding a little something. In the end we are only really left with one question, if truth is so malleable is there such thing as truth or is it all relative?