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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Tony Oursler

b. 1957, USA

American artist Tony Oursler has been compared to a circus showman. It is not difficult to imagine Oursler as a ringleader of an orphic recital; known for his twisted and ethereal combinations of sculpture, film and technology, his practice has incorporated projections, smoke, puppets, video screens and automatons to examine themes such as UFOs, magic, séances, pseudoscience, camera obscura and mass media. In his Manhattan studio is a collection of over 15,000 objects, publications and ephemera related to the paranormal and uncanny—an accumulation that has fed his hallucinogenic practice. Over the past 40 years, Oursler has become recognised for his inventive works exploring the intersection of technology and the occult.

Oursler earned a BFA from the California Institute of the Arts in the late 1970s, where John Baldessari and Laurie Anderson were teachers and his peers included artists Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Sue Williams and Stephen Prina. He returned to New York after graduating, and his first handmade videos incorporated intricate sets, soundtracks and DIY special effects—works for which he is now considered a pioneer of video art. Formative installations from the 1980s experimented with distorting video images with reflections in mirrors, water and glass in dark rooms. Oursler's early popularity was in part due to the fact he was picked up by Electronic Arts Intermix, a non-profit resource for video and media art. In the late 1980s, Oursler began incorporating social critiques into his works, touching on political and cultural violence, mass media and alienation. In the 1990s, he started to project disembodied facial features onto bizarre surfaces including fabric and smoke. The works were accompanied by layered recordings of voices reciting poetic, irreverent and sometimes nonsensical phrases written by Oursler–his 'sound collage' technique developed into a mainstay of his practice. His works over the next two decades experimented with the possibilities of video sculpture and psychodramatic technological theatre, all the while pointing at the ephemerality of the virtual image.

Oursler's work has been exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions around the world including at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Tate Liverpool, documenta 8 in Kassel and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In 2016, Oursler's Imponderable (2015–16) was exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the feature-length film told an alternate history of technology by delving into the artist's own archive of objects related to the paranormal. Oursler called the work a '5-D' film as an array of sensory effects such as aromas, vibrations and a 19th-century phantasmagorical device made the experience dramatically immersive. Harking back to the bodiless facial features of the 1990s, Oursler's recent sculptures (as seen in his 2016 exhibition PriV%te at Lehmann Maupin) have stemmed from the artist's interest in the pervasiveness of facial recognition technology. LCD screens or iPads are embedded within large, aluminium head-shaped structures and show ultra high-definition moving eyes and mouths accompanied by sound collages, making the actors within seem trapped between technology and real life. Algorithmic points are plotted around the faces, as if recording them in real time. 'Portraiture today', Oursler has said, 'is no longer a chiaroscuro painting or photographic mug shot.' Instead, according to Oursler, portraiture is comprised of the ubiquity of data collected of our beings without our express knowledge or consent: 'It's changed the way we think about ourselves'.

Oursler currently lives and works in New York City.

Elliat Albrecht | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

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nU#m) by Tony Oursler contemporary artwork Tony OurslernU#m), 2017 Acrylic, resin, milled aluminium, LCD screen and media player
133.4 x 94 x 8.9 cm
Lisson Gallery
Reductio ad Absurdum by Tony Oursler contemporary artwork Tony OurslerReductio ad Absurdum, 2011 Steel stand, projection, mixed media, sound
163.8 x 53.3 x 15.2 cm
Lehmann Maupin
C>o++ by Tony Oursler contemporary artwork Tony OurslerC>o++, 2017 Aluminium, acrylic paint, and LCD screen, sound
134.6 x 92.7 x 7.6 cm
Lehmann Maupin
Bub* by Tony Oursler contemporary artwork Tony OurslerBub* Aluminium, acrylic paint, and LCD screen
129.5 x 119.4 cm
Lehmann Maupin
E*Nel by Tony Oursler contemporary artwork Tony OurslerE*Nel, 2016 Aluminum, acrylic paint, LCD screen, and sound
54.75 x 37 x 3.5 cm
Lehmann Maupin
EUC% by Tony Oursler contemporary artwork Tony OurslerEUC%, 2015 Wood, inkjet print, LCD screens, USB flash drives, sound performed by Holly Stanton, Jim Fletcher, and Brandon Olson
287 x 181.6 x 774.7 cm
Lehmann Maupin
urO by Tony Oursler contemporary artwork Tony OurslerurO, 2015 Aluminum, paint, LCD screen, media player
129.5 x 94 x 11.4 cm
Lehmann Maupin
9_z by Tony Oursler contemporary artwork Tony Oursler9_z, 2015 Aluminum, paint, LCD screen
125.1 x 105.4 x 11.4 cm
Lehmann Maupin

Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Tony Oursler, Tony Oursler: TC: the most interesting man alive at Lisson Gallery, New York
29 June–10 August 2018 Tony Oursler Tony Oursler: TC: the most interesting man alive Lisson Gallery, 10th Avenue, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Tony Oursler, PriV%te at Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong
14 January–5 March 2016 Tony Oursler PriV%te Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Rachel Lehmann Ocula Conversation Rachel Lehmann Founding Partner of Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

Rachel Lehmann is not only one half of the gallery powerhouse that is Lehmann Maupin, but she is also an international citizen of the world. Lehmann was born in Asmara, Ethiopia, and studied at the University of Fribourg in France. She worked at the legendary Sonnabend Gallery in New York, and was the proprietor of two contemporary galleries in...

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In Related Press

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Creature Discomfort: Art in the Cycle of History Related Press Creature Discomfort: Art in the Cycle of History Hyperallergic : 2 March 2017

Creature, a thematic exhibition at The Broad, is one of those shows, like the recently opened Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work at the New Museum in New York, whose meanings and context have been jolted, scrambled, and reloaded by the resistible rise of Donald J. Trump.As it so happens, Creature opened on November 5th, the Saturday before the...

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Tony Oursler: Museum of Modern Art, New York and Center for Curatorial Studies, Annandale-on-Hudson, USA Related Press Tony Oursler: Museum of Modern Art, New York and Center for Curatorial Studies, Annandale-on-Hudson, USA Frieze : 13 December 2016

A film and exhibition exploring the artist’s vast collection of images and ephemera relating to illusionism, the occult, photography and unexplained phenomena, Imponderable is an engrossing voyage through the interzone between science and spiritualism. It also demonstrates the ways in which human imagination has reacted to periods of...

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Interview with Tony Oursler Related Press Interview with Tony Oursler BOMB Magazine : 26 July 2016

Why is your film called Imponderable? And why is the Bard show called The Imponderable Archive?Recently I became fascinated with early science, reading all these books and taking 'The Great Courses' series. I kept coming upon this word 'imponderable'—for example, when reading about Newton's idea that gravity was...

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Tony Oursler: Capturing modern magic Related Press Tony Oursler: Capturing modern magic Whitewall : 19 July 2016

Tony Oursler grapples modernism with the elusive tools of mysticism, pseudoscience, and stage magic. Imponderable, currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), unravels the worlds of sensory wonder as a five-dimensional, feature-length film (of the same name) inspired by multi-paranormal manifestations.

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