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Omer Fast: Garage Sale

Solo show, Bielefeld
October 28 - December 18, 2022

Fast’s film Garage Sale begins with a heavily pixelated image. The image zooms out and pixels become smaller, allowing us to better distinguish the contours of human figures in an interior space. This cropped detail of a larger image shows what appears to be a mirror, eventually recognisable as the picture-within-the-picture detail from the famed Arnolfini Portrait by Early Netherlandish painter Jan van Eyck. The 1434 rendering of Italian merchant Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his bride is currently on view in the National Gallery in London. Art historical interpretations vary as to whether the two subjects are already or recently married, in the process of taking their vows, or are still engaged. A clicking sound punctuates the film’s entire soundtrack—an effect recalling the photographic snap of a shutter closing in an analog camera. The film’s unseen female protagonist gives a detailed account of her fascination with the painting and of a project that failed to materialise; throughout, she interrupts her own narrative flow with terse instructions to another person off screen, presumably the camera operator. The camera pans to reveal the painting on a puzzle box lid; further clicks reveal the overall setting for that box: a yard sale, more specifically a hodgepodge of cast-off, unused and disorganised odds and ends sprawled in front of a suburban New Jersey home. Within a few minutes, the narrator has connected Van Eyck’s painting to Erwin Panofsky, the renowned German-born Jewish art historian who published a close analysis of the portrait in 1934. A close-up of a photograph of a semi-detached house in Hanover—home to one of the narrator’s husband’s relatives—is followed by shots leading further into the interior. Viewers find themselves inside Tante Klara’s living room, where the husband’s aunt is pictured leafing through a photo album.

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