Behind the image

Tony Oursler


Installation, 292 x 350 x 610 cm.

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. S0243).

Tony Oursler has made innovative use of the medium of video since the 1990s, like here in this installation. He projects his moving images not onto a screen, but rather onto a doll of sorts. In other installations, for example, he uses flowers and giant eyeballs as ‘screens’. This way of working has become Oursler’s trademark. Oftentimes his tragi-comic protagonists find themselves in sticky situations: they are pressed together under benches, chair legs, closed up in suitcases and crates or hung from the ceiling. They are given an apparently living face (of Oursler himself, a friend or an actor) by way of video projections and with the penetrating voice they articulate their complaints, or just rattle. They are made of fabric, their body often consists of no more than some rags, but they seem alive nonetheless. Oursler focuses on the face because, as he himself says, it is the face that always fascinates us the most. The principles of the laterna magica from the 19th century lie at the basis of Oursler’s manner of working. The result of this technique is a whacky puppet theatre, where the atmosphere and feelings unleashed by the installation stands central. The contrast between the motionless, ‘dead’ body of the puppet and the aggressive, often vulgar language fired at you, is very confrontational and underlines the work’s ominous atmosphere and dramatic power.

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