Tony Oursler is an American artist born in 1957.
After Graduating from the California Institute of Arts, Oursler started to work primarily with video and installation.
He truly revolutionized certain aspects of projection by supressing the frame of the screen. Oursler uses different mediums such as video, film, photography, handmade objects, sculpture, computers, the web, and also elaborate soundtracks. Noise, image, and light are important devices composing the artist’s work. The visual sensations of the viewer are heightened as the artist ingenuously occupies the space with these projections (characters hidden under the stairs, projections of faces on clouds of smoke and trees in the middle of New York).
Oursler’s works seem like animate effigies in their own psychological space, often appearing to interact directly with the viewer’s sense of empathy. These installations are consistently disturbing and fascinating.
These confusing, enigmatic, and obsessive virtual characters deliver a message, and present a parable of miscommunication.
The artist manages to create a sensory universe that raises the question of human and non-human, and tries to reproduce the emotions of the human face onto a monstrous or inanimate object. Yet, there is no aggression in Oursler’s installations. They appear as puzzles that appeal to all our senses, and manage to awaken a certain tenderness and compassion for the human race. This aspect diverges from the Neo- Conceptualism or Post-Pop.
Among the artist’s best known works are: The Watching (presented in 1992 at Documenta 9, made of handmade soft-cloth figures combined with expressive faces animated by video projection); Judy (1993), which explored the relationship between multiple personality disorders and mass media; Get Away II, which featured a passive-aggressive projected figure wedged under a mattress confronting the viewer with blunt direct address; Eyes in 1996, and Climax in 2005.
Signature works have been Oursler’s talking lights, such as Streetlight (1997), his series of video sculptures of eyes with television screens reflected in the pupils, and ominous talking heads such as Composite Still Life (1999). An installation called Optics (1999) examines the polarity between dark and light in the history of the camera obscura.
In his website «TimeStream», Oursler proposed that architecture and moving image installation have been forever linked by the camera obscura, noting that cave dwellers observed the world as projections via peep holes. Oursler’s interest in the ephemeral history of the virtual image lead to largescale public projects and permanent installations by 2000.
The Public Art Fund and Artangel commissioned the Influence Machine in 2000. This installation marks the artist’s first major outdoor project and thematically traced the development of successive communication devices from the telegraph to the personal computer as a means of speaking with the dead. Oursler used smoke, trees and buildings as projection screens in Madison Square Park in New York and Soho Square in London. He then completed a number of permanent public projects in Barcelona, New Zealand, Arizona and «Braincast» at the Seattle Public Library. He is scheduled to complete a commission at the Frank Sinatra High School in Astoria, New York.
Oursler was part of the musical and performance group, Poetics, with fellow California Institute of the Arts friends Mike Kelley and John Miller. The artist created the background videos that played at David Bowie’s 50th birthday party concert in 1997, as well as the video to accompany Bowie’s single «Where Are We Now?», released in January 2013.
Oursler ‘s work has exhibited in many prestigious institutions including the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Documenta VIII and IX in Kassel, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Sculpture Projects in Munster, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, the Hirshhorn Museum, in Washington D.C., and Tate Liverpool.
The artist lives and works in New York.