Exhibition tip - Omer Fast at the Netherlands Media Art Institute
Not only because the 5 videos by Omer Fast NIMk is showing are worth the trip but also because NIMk (as well as other Dutch new media art centers) needs all the national and international support it can get right now. But more on this later!
Fast's Nostalgia trilogy is a particularly stunning, moving, words-fail-me-really artwork. The three films are based on the actual story of a West African refugee who requested asylum in London.
The fist video follows a white man as he is building a trap for partridges in the woods, a voice over explains how to do so. The shots evoke an amateur video.
The second part reenacts the conversation that the artist had with a young Nigerian man who is seeking political asylum in the UK. The film is more polished and unfolds over two screens. Despite the tragic theme, the short movie feels like a comedy with the white artist attempting to understand the life that the young man had in Africa while the former Nigerian child soldier gently plays with the artist's preconceptions about Africa.
The final part of the video is shot on 16mm and looks like a scifi movie shot and set in the 1970s. This time, the emigrant is a white English man from Surrey who sold his kidney and bike in exchange for a clandestine trip to Africa. The poor guy was arrested on the coast of West Africa. He had to flee an England of the future where people starve and hope for a better life in a prosperous African country where Britons are not welcome. That episode was particularly moving because of the way traditional roles are reversed. The European guy is pleasing for a place in well-off Africa while the African immigration officer displays the kind of prejudice we might have over here in Europe. While talking later with her lover, an immigration officer explains that "In England people might be poor but they are incredibly friendly", and the boyfriend retorts that "No one travels to Europe anymore, only hippies used to go there as voluntary workers,' etc.
Nostalgia provides the missing piece in the current immigration debate in Europe (or lack of in many cases.)
Now the other thing i need to mention is that the Dutch organisations which can be regarded as some of the most active motors of the whole new media art community are facing a 100% cut in their structural governmental funding. Steim, Waag Society, Mediamatic, V2_, WORM & NIMK are about to lose all their funding. I'm just back from Amsterdam where i saw exhibitions at NIMk, Mediamatic and another one orchestrated by Waag. Each of them was of high quality and i cannot imagine how bland my stay in town would have been if the contemporary art offer of the city has been limited to the Stedelijk and a few commercial art galleries, no matter how brilliant their programme can be at times. The whole cultural panorama is going to be hit by the drastic and short-sighted plan but it's the most avant-garde, experimental and audacious programmes that are particularly threatened.
Show your support by writing your comment on NIMk's Media Art, We Care page. And sign the Save Dutch Media art orgs. Govt plans to slash them all! petition.
Read also: Letter to Dutch art butcher Halbe Zijlstra, Response New Media & Art Institutions To Governmental Cuts, Dutch Coup d'Etat in art and culture, Support the Rijksakademie, secure the art of the future.