Always rooted in the medium of film, Tony Oursler conjures sculptural and immersive experiences using technologies that hark back to magic lanterns, Victorian light shows, camera obscura and auratic parlour tricks, but that also look forward to the fully networked, digitally assisted future of image and identity production. As a pioneer of video art in early 1980s New York, Oursler specialised in hallucinogenic dramaturgy and radical formal experimentation, employing animation, montage and live action: “My early idea of what could be art for my generation was an exploded TV.” From performative and low-fi beginnings, Oursler has developed an ever-evolving multimedia and audio-visual practice utilising projections, video screens, sculptures and optical devices, which might take form as figurative puppets, ethereal talking automatons or immersive, cacophonous environments. His enduring fascination for the conjunctions between the diametrically opposed worlds of science and spiritualism have allowed him to explore all kinds of occult and mystical phenomena, employing not just smoke and mirrors, but playing the role of circus showman and extricating the sham from the shaman. Oursler’s aesthetic and interactive technomancy reveals not only the ghosts in the machine, but the psychological impact of humanity’s headlong dive into cyberspace.
Tony Oursler lives and works in New York. Born in 1957, he graduated from the California Institute of the Arts and collaborated on early works with artists such as Mike Kelley. His museum exhibitions include Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2014); Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev (2013); ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark (2012); Helsinki City Art Museum, Finland, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2005); Kunsthaus Bregenz (2001); Whitney Museum, New York (2000) and Kunstverein Hannover, Germany (1998). In addition to participating in prestigious group exhibitions such as Documenta VIII and IX, Oursler’s work is included in many public collections worldwide, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Museum of Osaka, Japan; Tate Gallery, London; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven and ZMK/Center for Art & Media, Karlsruhe, Germany.