Tony Oursler is regarded alongside Bill Viola, Bruce Nauman and Gary Hill as one of the most influential pioneers of video art. Recognised for ‘freeing’ the video from its two dimensional frame and projecting images onto three dimensional forms, Oursler has developed a medium he amusingly describes as ‘digital clay’.
Oursler’s works explore the potential the three dimensional object carries, especially when combined with his dramatic animations, creating a family of unique, comically mutant forms. These insistent characters beckon the viewer with a blend of apparently nonsensical mutterings and poetry, all the time peppering the monologue with psychoanalytic references and a poignancy that captures most all viewers. Our presence seems to implicate us in these voyeuristic dramas; we find ourselves seduced by the humour, the melancholy, and the emotional intensity of his animates.
Underlying his psychedelic imagination is a fundamental exploration of the relationship between individuals and mass media systems. Recent installations (such as at Kunsthaus Bregenz) address the convergence of media consumption and post-modern psychosis. Oursler continuously engages with popular culture to question the way visual technologies influence and modify our social and psychological selves and the way systems of mechanical reproduction have come to dictate the way we ‘see’ and understand the world.
Though his works may notionally attend to bigger social and political issues, it is his capacity to speak to fundamental human emotions that so absorbs us. Oursler’s worlds constantly invoke the very human wish to lose oneself in fantasy. He trusts in our capacity to empathise, identifying with aspects of our predicament– isolation, loves lost, transcendence, uncertainty, allure and repulsion; this the central stuff of an Oursler work.
The artist was born in New York and completed a BA in fine arts at the California Institute for the Arts, Valencia, California in 1979. He participated in the Documenta 8, 9 and 10 series in Kassel, Germany.