‘The Challenge Was to Articulate a Voice’: Watch Artist Omer Fast Splice Together CNN Clips to Convey a Personal Message About 9/11

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21
Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Omer Fast: 'CNN Concatenated.'" © Art21, Inc. 2015.

The opening notes of Omer Fast‘s 2012 video work CNN Concatenated sound almost identical to the swelling chords and staccato notes of CNN’s actual theme music, right down to the God-like voiceover that says, with great import, “This is CNN.”

After that introduction, Fast’s work diverges into a compilation piece, where each word is spoken by a different newscaster, spliced together to form phrases that Fast himself wrote in the aftermath of 9/11. Fast actually began the piece months before the terrorist attacks, he explains in an exclusive interview with Art21, by gathering short clips from the Cable News Network without knowing exactly what they would become.

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Omer Fast: 'CNN Concatenated.'" © Art21, Inc. 2015.

Production still from the Art21 “Extended Play” film, “Omer Fast: ‘CNN Concatenated.'” © Art21, Inc. 2015.

He had moved to Germany just weeks before when he “heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center, and realized that the piece, in a sense, would have to change too,” he told Art21. Fast wrote a script that comes together in the video, phrases formed by simple words spoken in an entirely different context.

“Where do our responsibilities begin? Where do we go from here? Who can we trust?” are just a few of the questions posed in the video, questions that remain largely unanswered as the 19th anniversary of the attacks approaches. While Fast pored over the VHS tapes he’d ordered from CNN, “the challenge was to articulate a voice,” he told Art21, a definitive voice that “speaks through it at the same time.”

Watching the video, there is a cognitive dissonance between the script Fast composed and the talking heads that speak the lines, but the artist insists that the work succeeds when you are able to tune out the background noise and the faces. Once that happens, Fast says, his voice comes through—and “that voice, it’s a pretty scared voice” he says, referring to it as his doppelgänger. “It’s a pretty urgent, demanding, aggressive, scared voice.”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series “Extended Play,” below.

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

 


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