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Omer Fast in "Fiction" - Season 7 - "Art in the Twenty-First Century" | Art21

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    Wondering if we could just, like, get, like-
    You want to get it on the wall?
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    Yeah, just a couple of strips on the wall.
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    Growing up between two cultures and two languages
    allowed me to get some distance from them.
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    I feel authentic in one particular milieu,
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    but I switch milieu,
    and I feel just as authentic in that other place.
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    And what is that thing that we call identity about?
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    Action.
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    At a very young age there was an awareness
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    of how much identity is in fact a performance,
    a kind of construction,
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    and how much narratives underpin our societies
    and our cultures.
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    Being able to shift from one place to another
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    also puts a kind of a focus on the self
    and this performance of authenticity.
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    These are things that bubble around the edges
    of my work.
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    Where it becomes interesting
    is how to explore that dimension
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    without writing a political treatise,
    or a piece of journalism,
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    but rather through understanding that this
    is implicated
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    in personal relationships.
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    This is a subject that I keep coming back to.
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    (knocking on door)
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    (door slams)
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    Everything okay?
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    Yeah.
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    Yeah.
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    I'm okay.
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    OMER: when I find my subjects,
    the process involves a lot of doubt about
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    ethical dimension
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    of what I'm doing,
    vis-a-vis someone else's story, someone else's life.
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    These guys have to be here?
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    I didn't realize you'd be filming.
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    INTERVIEWER: We can stop if you're uncomfortable.
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    The kind of space I create to throw those
    doubts into
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    and shut them away is creating this
    kind of doppelganger art,
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    this sort of double,
    who becomes the target for those issues.
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    What's the difference between you,
    and someone who sits in an airplane?
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    There's no difference between us.
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    We do the same job.
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    INTERVIEWER: But you're not a real pilot.
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    So what?
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    You're not a real journalist.
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    OMER: All those kinds of roles of someone
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    who is listening while at the same time
    ostensibly forming judgments.
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    INTERVIEWER: You sure you're okay?
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    OMER: Allow me to externalize doubts,
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    and to gain a little bit of distance
    from a subject that might be very dry or very personal.
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    It creates a conversation about
    the right to take someone's story and change it.
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    You don't like it?
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    Why don't you ask me a better question?
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    OMER: This project is triggered by
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    a conversation with someone
    who is working in the drone program.
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    Drones are these unmanned aircraft
    that are controlled remotely.
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    There is a pilot who controls the movement
    of the aircraft.
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    The other person is responsible for all the optics.
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    SENSOR OPERATOR: 5,000 Feet's the best.
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    You're a lot more sitting at 5,000 feet.
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    I can tell you what type of shoes you're wearing
    from a mile away.
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    We have the IR-infrared,
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    which we can switch to automatically,
    and that'll pick up any heat signatures or
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    cold signatures.
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    I mean, if someone sits down,
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    let's say, on a cold surface for a while and
    then gets up,
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    you'll still see the heat from the person.
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    It kind of looks like a white blossom,
    just shining up in heaven.
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    It's quite beautiful.
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    I mean, heck, if you see somebody
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    light up a cigarette on that,
    that's a huge beacon.
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    You're just on a preset path
    flying a circular orbit,
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    watching them as they're smoking
    from about two to three miles away.
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    And the computer will figure out the trajectory,
    the distance, and the speed,
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    and come up with an estimated time
    that it would take for the missile to impact.
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    The pilot will get all the clearances
    that are necessary to fire.
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    He'll release the missile,
    and I'll guide it in on to its target.
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    (knocking on door)
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    INTERVIEWER: Hey, what are you doing?
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    We're here.
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    Everything okay?
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    Yeah.
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    Yeah.
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    Everything's okay.
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    So what do you want to talk about?
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    INTERVIEWER: That's what I was going to ask you.
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    Man, I don't want to talk about anything.
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    You're the one paying, remember?
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    Not paying that much.
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    PILOT: You want to pay any more?
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    (bleep)
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    INTERVIEWER: You okay?
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    Oh, yes, it's just junk food.
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    The work offers a restaging of that conversation
    and several flashbacks.
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    Then each flashback,
    we eventually see a flying overhead shot of
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    a landscape.
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    That voice that accompanies that shot
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    is the real sensor operator's voice,
    describing his real life and work.
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    The work tries to weave together
    this person's recollections and his conversations,
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    reimagining that encounter several times over
    as a kind of unresolved, repeating piece.
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    SENSOR OPERATOR: Usually I wouldn't get home
    until 10:00 in the morning.
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    You jump in the shower,
    get your breakfast.
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    Play some video games for, you know,
    for four hours and then try to sleep.
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    I guess Predator is similar to playing a video game,
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    but playing the same video game four years straight,
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    every single day on the same level.
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    But then you have your moments
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    when there's a real emergency going on,
    and that's just where stress comes into play.
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    How do I hit that truck,
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    and how far away should I put the missile
    to get the truck
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    so that way I don't have any damage
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    to the surrounding buildings or to the people
    or hurt anybody else's life that's around there?
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    And sometimes I make mistakes.
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    I mean, there is horror sides to working Predator.
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    You see a lot of death.
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    I mean, there came a point after, you know,
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    five years of doing this that
    it's just I had to think about,
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    wow, there's so much loss of life
    that was a direct result of me.
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    I mean, there was a lot of personal stuff
    I had to go through,
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    a lot of chaplains I had to talk to,
    and a lot of people look like,
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    "How can you have PTSD
    "if you weren't actively in a war zone?"
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    Well, technically speaking,
    every single day I was active in a war zone.
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    I mean I may not have been personally at harm,
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    but I was directly affecting people's lives
    over there
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    every single day.
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    You know, it's not like a video game.
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    I can't switch it off.
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    It's always there.
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    I'd very much rather think about
    the work in terms of portraiture.
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    We know that somebody who's painting a portrait
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    is inevitably going to use a particular style
    in order to represent the subject.
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    What I do in a sense
    very often are portraits of, in this case,
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    the drone sensor operator or laborers in sex industry,
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    but because they are portraits,
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    there is somebody who's telling their story
    and telling their stories are increasingly
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    interfering
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    with a more passive and fluid reception
    of who these people are and what they do.
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    So Julia, what's coming up then
    after the dogs are taken care of?
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    What do you do?
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    I'm going to make my breakfast shake, run my bath.
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    OMER: The structure of this project
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    is literally showing a day in the life of workers
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    in the adult film industry.
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    I wanted to find a way to connect to a company
    and to film them filming their film.
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    At that point I started to write vignettes
    that I would combine with this,
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    so there's a documentary component to it,
    and a fictional component of course.
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    I wanted to show them simultaneously,
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    because I wanted to show how their separate lives
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    at some point converge because of their work.
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    The four screens represent an attempt
    to articulate that spatially.
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    The work continuously braids
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    stories and individuals together,
    and it pulls them apart,
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    and there is kind of a structural dynamic there
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    that's about movement and repetition,
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    and the potential for seeing beauty in something
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    which is as pedestrian as
    four people driving to work in L.A.
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    I mean, how boring is that?
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    (music plays over radio)
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    I rely on fiction very much for my work.
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    Everything That Rises Must Converge
    is the title of Flannery O'Connor's short story,
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    which served as an inspiration
    for what I was thinking at the time
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    and how I was going to approach a particular subject.
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    Why I got in the business?
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    It's my parents.
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    INTERVIEWER: Your parents?
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    Yeah.
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    INTERVIEWER: Were they also adult film directors?
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    No.
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    My parents were hippies.
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    INTERVIEWER: Oh, so were mine.
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    No.
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    No, no, no, no.
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    My parents were the real deal.
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    INTERVIEWER: Mine were too.
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    No, dude, it's written all over you.
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    Your parents were your typical fair-weather, happy,
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    non-threatening flower children.
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    OMER: There's one character whose politics
    is correct on the one hand,
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    but he's completely resentful towards his mother,
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    who represents this sort of other in the story.
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    Reagan democrats, am I right?
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    More or less.
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    They were hippies,
    and they lived in a commune,
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    and in this commune they were very busy chipping away
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    at the hierarchies and the kind of power
    that underpins society at that time.
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    Part of that is sex.
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    Part of that is family and its relation to sex,
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    so he describes a past where 38 people
    are sleeping and working together.
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    Sex is something that you do with everyone.
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    It's your obligation to do it.
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    It becomes in a sense, work,
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    something that defines that particular society
    and that children are also involved in this.
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    This is something that this character has
    been through.
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    This is the particular conundrum
    that that person is stuck in and that he represents.
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    DIRECTOR: Okay, sexy time, ready?
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    This one's got to be the one for all the marbles.
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    I feel it in my loins.
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    Here we go.
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    Please hold.
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    And sexy time,
    and hold on please.
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    OMER: When they're acting in front of the camera
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    for their film,
    they're in a genre.
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    They're mannered.
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    DIRECTOR: Here we go.
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    Action.
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    He turned out to be 70 years old.
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    What?
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    Yeah, his picture was from 1986.
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    This woman is a goddess.
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    She needs to be appreciated,
    like a fine wine, aged to perfection.
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    Just, just.
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    OMER: It's a very stylized kind of performance,
    using a particular language for a particular
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    audience.
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    They were in a sense the most banal,
    and that's what I was after.
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    –Yeah, but you're just a-
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    OMER: It's very, very postmodern in a sense.
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    They're not bad actors.
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    They're just playing in a particular way.
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    It's genre,
    and I like using these different genres
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    and sort of unpacking their languages
    and playing around with that.
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    DIRECTOR: As soon as she starts talking,
    it's going to move.
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    OMER: Okay.
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    Tom, do you mind if-
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    The first page?
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    "Bueno todo estas?"
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    Yes, please.
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    Okay.
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    (actress speaking Spanish)
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    This character pulls you into another location,
    which is a studio.
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    She's your guide into this world.
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    She reappears when you're lost or bored.
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    Her reading of the script and interaction
    with a director
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    constitutes a distant and critical element,
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    this other narrative regarding crossing the border
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    and migration.
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    (actress speaks Spanish)
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    But she really said all this stuff.
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    Everything stands on something else.
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    Everything stands for something else.
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    Yes, she did.
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    Of course, there's some editing.
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    And all that stuff about licking,
    you know, the wet dog at the beginning,
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    and then the wind licking,
    and cold, bitter bursts.
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    Wait, where does it say this?
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    When they're on the truck on the way to the border.
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    But it's biting, not licking.
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    Right.
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    It's just a way to stop the flow.
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    You know, it makes you think twice
    about what you're hearing.
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    There will be a man and his wife
    who are undergoing a particular crisis,
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    and perhaps a moment of transformation,
    perhaps not.
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    Okay, action.
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    These two brothers I told you about,
    the ones I keep seeing.
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    JOSH: You mean brothers, like two Black dudes, or, like?
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    They were white, Josh.
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    Biological brothers.
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    Maybe twins.
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    They looked really similar.
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    What they find?
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    An egg.
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    What kind of egg?
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    I mean, I mean, like a chicken egg?
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    OMERFAST: In order to resolve the crisis,
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    they need to produce something,
    and so they don't produce a child.
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    They produce a story,
    and that story produces an egg.
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    This was, like, perfectly oval.
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    And it looked old.
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    Trust me, Josh.
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    It was an egg.
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    Plus, they handled it carefully.
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    OMER: People always talk about my work
    in terms of the real and the fictional,
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    and that is not interesting to me at all,
    these notions of truth and the real
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    are hugely important for us
    when we're talking in terms of a process of justice.
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    I'm not a journalist.
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    My work does not exist in the court of law.
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    It exists in the space of art,
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    and the space of art allows
    for ambiguities and for contradictions.
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    This whole fetishized notion of truth and ideal,
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    which is a lovely thing to aspire to,
    is in a sense the plaything in the work.
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    To think about the work in terms of truth
    and lies
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    or truth and fiction is to kill the work.
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    (knocking on door)
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    What, what are you doing?
Title:
Omer Fast in "Fiction" - Season 7 - "Art in the Twenty-First Century" | Art21
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Team:
Art21
Project:
"Art in the Twenty-First Century" broadcast series
Duration:
15:41

English subtitles

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