Tony Oursler (b. 1957) - Mansheshe, 1997
Since his exhibition of The Waiting in 1992, Tony Oursler’s work has focused on the video image’s operation in the space and time of performance and encounter, explored in relocations of projected or screened images onto three-dimensional objects, including dummies and mannequins, flowers, spheres and abstract sculptural forms. Overtly theatrical in their negotiation of place, presentation and “projection,” while referencing historical and contemporary spectacle, including phantasmagoria and spiritualist practices, as well as popular reactions to technology, Oursler’s staging of these uncanny presences engages with psychological and perceptual responses to mediatised forms and signs. In the course of this activity, Oursler’s work has come to emphasize the experience and performance of “presence” in ways that depart from the overt displacement of the “authority” of “classical presence” that Chantal Pontbraid influentially identified with “the expression of performance through technical means” in her essay “The Eye Finds No Fixed Point On Which To Rest,” published in Modern Drama in 1982. Indeed, in its engagement with the performance of presence through media, Oursler’s work can also be seen to defer in significant ways from the critique of presence that, in his book Presence and Resistance (1992), Phillip Auslander, after Pontbraid, identified with the cultural politics of contemporary, media-based performance practices. By contrast, Oursler’s hybrid objects are designed to prompt processes of empathy and catharsis, frequently taking their effect in the viewer’s recognition of and identification with a “media entity” whose perceived “presence” may challenge the integrity and stability of the onlooker’s position.