Modern thought on war is often at odds with the very idea of a memorial museum. With hindsight, the destructive aftermath it can leave behind is often lamented and regretted, at least by some of its participants. And yet it still goes on. This idea is what makes the contemporary programme so intriguing at the Imperial War Museum. Contemporary art can be provocative and has often been a tool with which criticise war – this space will allow a reflective perspective on war and echo more contemporary war events as they are happening.
The more recent use of unmanned drone planes couldn't be more contemporary, and the idea that the pilots come out of duty unscathed is examined in Fast's artwork. The 30-minute long film traces a dramatised interview with an American fighter pilot in a hotel in Las Vegas. Fast weaves a thread that questions how reality and fiction function and exist in the drone pilot's participation in war. Skilfully put together, the film is hypnotic and well thought through.
The pilots who man the plane are based in Nevada, and as the story of the pilot unfolds the camera traces Vegas by night – a mesmerising and psychedelic journey that echoes the weirdness of the entire concept. There were moments that I was reminded of the strangeness of Apocalypse Now: devastation, hedonism and insanity. The bird's-eye view, mimicking the view a drone pilot might see, spies on Vegas at night. The title of the piece is actually a quote from the interview that describes the optimum position for a drone plane to be placed. This position, the pilot adds, allows you to see everything down to the shoes people are wearing: a sinister fact. Even more disturbing is the level of destruction these drone planes can cause, their accuracy is limited and the pilots make calls on their "potential" level of destruction on a daily basis.
As an art student in New York, Fast himself was in the spot light after his graduation show: a two-way video of Lethal Weapon and his pitch-perfect impersonation of it. This piece entitled "Breakin in a new partner" set the tone for how his work would develop thematically over the next 12 years. Fast's artwork has become synonymous with the blurring of reality and fiction, and this very concept of an unmanned plane fits perfectly with his concerns.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the pilot draws a likeness between playing a video game, a comparison too often drawn on in modern warfare. But, he describes, it's like a video game being stuck on the same level for 11 months.
Fast's film is technically wonderful, overlaying speech, sweeping camera shots and dramatisations to bring new meaning and arguments to this story. His work is essential viewing, and thankfully it is vitally located within the Imperial War Museum.