A Walk in the ForestPublished by Editions Take5, Geneva in 2021,
under the editorial direction of Céline Fribourg
Photographs : 14 original signed pigment prints by Tony Oursler
A 15-minute video specially created by Tony Oursler for the book,
on an LCD screen inserted in the paper, with rechargeable battery
Text by Tony Oursler
Graphics: Original typography, layout and cutouts drawn by
Studio Des Signes
Screen printing and manual cutting
Traycase designed by Germans Ermics,
sculpted in resin and colored by
Vincent de Rijk
USB stick in engraved walnut, containing the video
Each of the thirty copies
is numbered and signed by Tony Oursler
There is nothing purely human, there is vegetal in all that is human, there is tree at the origin of all experience", writes philosopher Emanuele Coccia.
Since the early 90s, Tony Oursler has made video art his field of choice. His signature approach is to think of the image in relation to its projection medium, to create truly immersive installations in which the viewer finds himself completely off-center. In 2000, he created The Influence Machine in New York, his first video work projected onto trees. Nineteen years later, he repeated the experience in the garden of the Fondation Cartier with the installation Eclipse. "When a solar eclipse passes over a tree, it is reflected on their leaves: looking at them from below, it creates a real optical system that fascinates me", confides the artist. The result of this inspiration is a captivating staging of moving faces, declaiming theatrically solemn words about the place of man and nature in our contemporary society.
In his book A Walk in the Forest, Tony Oursler invites us on a nocturnal stroll through the forest, to encounter various "character-trees". By projecting moving faces onto the foliage and trunks of trees, the artist reminds us that man's survival is integrally linked to the existence of trees and nature. The forest both precedes and succeeds man.
Through his photographs and texts, Tony Oursler becomes the translator and spokesman for these trees, evoking the threats they face and underlining the incongruity of our attitude towards them. The photographs in these projections are both landscapes and portraits, reminiscent of Arcimboldo's Seasons. The allegorical representation of the forest helps to signify the permanence of its empire both in nature and as a symbol.
In the 15-minute video specially produced for the book, and inserted into the paper of the cardboard box, the artist creates various tableaux of correspondences between the visible and the invisible, the microcosm and the macrocosm, art, nature and science.
Navigating between the terrestrial, celestial and supra-celestial worlds, man is part of a whole, a changing, dynamic infinity in constant metamorphosis. The humor and strangeness of Tony Oursler's compositions underline the problems of our times with tenderness and melancholy: the metaphorical machine hypertrophies signifying virtuality, producing here, as Roland Barthes formulated it, a subtle malaise even more penetrating than if the horror came from simple exaggeration or formal admonition.
In this back-and-forth movement from far to near, from ideal abstraction to physical materiality, Tony Oursler invites the viewer to penetrate the vertiginous experience of the inconstancy of form and signifier. The artist is a magician who, as he strolls through the forest, plays with poetry, dreams, metaphor, the invention of language, enigma, cryptography and the grotesque. Once the feeling of astonishment and amused amazement has passed, the images awaken our anxious conscience, in touch with a world in the grip of self-destruction.
To put nature's words on the page, studio Des Signes imagined a forest of pages anchored by a central paper trunk. They specially created a font that "vegetalizes" the letters, which seem to grow organically across the page. A play of cut-out shapes recalls the shadows of the moon that sculpt the foliage at night.
To house this spiritus phantasticus book, Lithuanian designer Germans Ermics designed a case with a strange, indefinite shape and subtle tones, abstractly evoking certain features of the human face. This organic, almost liquid-looking container, molded and then polished at length by the hands of resin specialist Vincent de Rijk, evokes sap, water and minerals.