Tony Oursler, American (1957 - )

Although born in 1957 and residing in New York City ever since, Tony Oursler has graduated from the probably most famous art college of the West Coast, the California Institute for the Arts - the one that has proved of such an import for artists of his generation. Interviewed, he refers to the impact exerted upon him by artists such as Jonathan Borofsky, John Baldessari, Judy Pfaff, or Laurie Anderson – then lecturing at the 'Cal Art'. Himself does he suggest certain interpretative traces to art historians, recalling the literary connections of his family, and, a Catholic background. He too mentions the influence of television, particularly, the MTV, a station whose special effects play a considerable role and to which artists of his generation have contributed.

Tony Oursler animates non-living objects with the use of projectors. Classified, along with Bill Viola, Bruce Nauman, Gary Hill and the like artists, among the most outstanding video creators, he has employed this technique in a totally different manner. In his works, a motion picture filmed with a video-camera is projected with a projector functioning on a laterna-magica basis as in the 19th-century theatre. The viewer does not stare at a rectangular screen, rather, s/he can see before him or her enlivened flowers, giant eye-balls, or puppets - talking, swearing at one another, quarrelling, and using coarse expressions. The contrast between the immovable, 'dead' bodies of the dolls and the aggressive, vulgar language not spared by their 'talking heads' add up to an unexpected dramatic power of this show.

With a multi-century tradition consciously referred to, Oursler's is a puppet theatre of some sort - having more to do, indeed, with a frame of mind and emotion than a narrative. In my use of narrative techniques, says the artist, I always wanted to get my spectator entrapped, build up a certain structure with which one could play, and build on. However, as is the case with my 'actors', also my narrative does incessantly get destroyed. The longer I study narrative structures, the stronger is my conviction that no such thing exists. Whatever we could name a 'narrative' is, essentially, no structure, rather a mental or physical disposition of theviewer/reader.

Tony Oursler exhibited his works at, among others, the Pompidou Centre in Paris; the Portikus of Frankfurt, Germany; the Stedelijk van Abbe in Eindhoven, Germany; Whitney Museum, N.Y.C.; Musée d'Art Contemporain in Bordeaux, France; the Kunstverein in Hannover, Germany; Hirshorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Museum of Contemporary Art, L.A. Also, he participated in the documenta 8, 9, 10 series in Kassel, Germany.

At the Warsaw CCA, Mr. Oursler presents five of his video projections (including two new ones, prepared specially for the purpose). A retrospective review of his drawings and videos, along with his most recent CD-ROM, round up the exhibition.

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