Tate Liverpool

Suffering from a continual struggle with the problem of oversleep, based primarily on the conflation of some fiction with the reality of the day ahead. Today this review is the reality, which for a few hours of intermittent sleep was conflated with some other problem going round and round. If only a solution could be found, then this would surely inform my approach to this stalled review. Now poised at the keyboard, I cannot recall the exact nature of the problem I was grappling with, nor if any solution was found. A quick google search for solutions to oversleep, offers a variety of advice, until, “When your alarm goes off, turn it off as fast as you can. Then take a deep breath…” Albeit synchronicity, this constructed link is as fitting a point of departure as any within a collection of made up situations.

In Omer Fast’s video installation Take a Deep Breath the initial presentation of a reality told through a documentary-style film is continually undermined by cuts and a sequence of events that defer the edges of the thing that is being documented. This sapping or nagging distortion of a presented reality is common to other works in the International strand of the Biennial, that is this year framed by the multifaceted theme of MADE UP. The curator of the Tate exhibition Laurence Sillars states about these works: “They test some of the very factors that prompt our understanding of the world and leave us unsure: what is actuality, what is fantasy, and can one exist without the other?”

Fast’s work opens with an eyewitness account of the aftermath of a suicide bomber in Israel, “I headed for my favourite Falafel place on Prophets Street. Within fifteen seconds I heard this boom.” This voiceover narrates the type of re-enacted scene common to current TV documentaries, as a man enters the bombed remains of the shop to administer mouth to mouth to a dismembered body. The smooth pan across the scene is disturbed, first by the eyes of the bomber opening, then by the word “Cut!”, which is quickly coupled with a change in camera position that reveals the crew making the video: a documentary about a supposedly real event becomes a documentary of a crew making a documentary about a supposedly real event. This switch should make us critically aware of the constructed nature of the events unfolding on screen, however the slick TV quality sucks us back in to believing that we now know our position in relation to what is being presented.

Having constructed sense out of what is being presented on screen, we accept the movement back and forth between the re-enactment and the crew documenting it. However this sinking acceptance is to be further frustrated. As we watch the crew take lunch, this ‘behind the scenes’ footage takes another “Cut!” This time a peeling scar reveals a further constructed narrative and an ever-receding camera position; each reveal having a further camera position that can be revealed at a later point. Whilst using the dramatic nature of TV to enhance production values and ease of audience engagement, Fast uses frustration as a tactic to ensure that we are aware of our complicity in reality construction. Here reality is performed as an ongoing operation by those involved.

This break within the onscreen narrative carries across to Guy Ben-Ner’s Second Nature, a video that charts the endeavours of two animal trainers required to train the principal characters in a retelling of Aesop’s The Fox and the Crow and the resulting re-enactment of this fable. This linear development from preparation to action is disturbed by the director of the scene, Ben-Ner himself, speaking in rhyme and the trainers breaking to read sections of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. The cyclical universe of the play, mirrored by the video as it goes round in circles with one agent acting upon another, training them to respond in a particular way.

“What do we do now?” asks the trainer, as Vladimir, a fitting question in relation to both Second Nature and Take a Deep Breath. Despite having start and end points, both encourage the act of waiting. Repeated watching reminiscent of that foggy morning problem going round and round, perhaps we need to watch it just once more to capture what just slipped by. Following a dispute amongst the cast of Take a Deep Breath, where they fail to reach a consensus as to the physical attributes of the first actor to play the suicide bomber, the cameraman exclaims confidently that he has “got it right here on camera”, and so the loop begins again in the repeated search for something fixed. Yet in these video’s conflation of fiction and reality they both serve to problematise what it is that we can, or should, expect to have right here on camera.

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