The artwork was inspired by one of the most famous psychological tests developed in 1921 by the Swiss psychiatrist Rorschach. The subject is asked to interpret an abstract image that looks like a symmetrical ink blot. But if for a psychiatrist it is a diagnostic method, then for an artist it is a way to use our ability to translate abstraction into content, into narrative. Oursler doesn’t use abstract images that often, but believes that the described above process of interpretation is the essence of artistic oeuvre. "ReVer" is a Rorschach test multiplied by the inexhaustible creative possibilities of each viewer.
One of Oursler's recent works, "Hypnosis", was created in collaboration with art historian and curator Pascal Rousseau. Hypnosis interests the artist both from the point of view of the hypnotic influence of modern media and as an original phenomenon which shaped itself at the end of the 18th century. Recognizable image of a hypnotic spiral is interspersed with video sketches, filmed in a manner reminiscent of the early days of cinema and the underground scene of New York in the 1980s. Using the images of somnambulist, lost sailor, magnetizer of the gallant age, our contemporaries being carried away by the information flow, the artist recreates the key events in the history of hypnosis, from “animal magnetism” by Franz Anton Mesmer to modern hypnotic forms of digital culture.
THE AIR LOOM
The title of the second part of the installation Hypnosis refers to the fantasies of James Tilly Matthews, London-based tea merchant, who believed that a gang of villains was destroying his health with the help of an “air loom”. In addition to the detailed description, he created a drawing of this machine, which is used in the video sequence. The visions of the mentally ill Englishman reflected the current agenda of the turn of the 18th-19th centuries - fascination with magnetism and political conspiracy theories, industrial revolution and dangers of a big city. By visualizing Matthews' story, the artist reveals similarities between the eras of great change.
In 2003, during the Internet pets craze in Japan, Oursler became interested in the topic of surrogate friendship. He wondered: how does empathy between machine and a person arise, and how can this connection develop in the digital environment? Using the latest technology, the artist created a cohort of digital pets. Using the concept of caricature as a starting point, Oursler employed a range of visual imagery, from smiley, designed by Harvey Ball back in 1969, to Japanese manga. The artist endowed some creatures with his eyes and mouth, for the others he borrowed the eyes and lips of his friends; only the nose was missing – after all, in a digital environment, the sense of smell is useless. "Caricatures" attract attention not only with their grotesque appearance, they appeal to the viewer the way we talk to our pets, that’s why Oursler specifically observed how people are interacting with their animal companions.
"Obscura" is a long-term ongoing project by Tony Oursler, in which he continues to explore our visual perception in relation to the spectacle of the current pop cultural viewing trends. The artist traces people's reactions to the screens of smartphones, computers, televisions and cinemas. Each depiction becomes a macro portrait of a moment of consumption of visual content. Reflections of what the eyes are focused on are visible on the cornea of the eyes, thus each element of this large-scale installation contains a hint of what the viewer is doing: watching a horror movie or science fiction, programs about nature or computer graphics, weather forecast or social networks. Similar hints are contained in the soundtrack of the installation. The title of the artwork refers to the camera obscura – the first technology to obtain an optical image.
“25 Heads” is reflecting on technology and identity. When in 1848 the telegraph was invented, mankind received the first technology for instant communication over long distances. The word of a person, as part of his identity, could be carried around the world at the speed of an electrical signal. Since then, technology has leaped forward, and today we transmit not only words, but also images. Having received the opportunity to broadcast ourselves to the whole world, we are expanding our identity through technology. Oursler conveys this idea through identical images which are pronouncing diverse texts. For each of the 25 heads the artist wrote poetic lines about identity and technology. Sound is especially important for this work, because, observing the haze from simultaneously speaking characters, we understand that we can concentrate only on what one person is saying.
The title of this multi-layered polysemic installation was borrowed from psychologist Peter Watson. During the experiment, Watson challenged his subjects to analyze the number sequence 2,4,6. They produced many theories, but very few determined the simple, correct solution of ascending numbers. The experiment clearly demonstrated what scientists call “confirmation bias”, when we consider the facts of the world around us through the prism of our own prejudices and preconceptions. "Lock 2,4,6" is a statement about bias that can be traced in any point of view. The work questions whether thoughts and actions, facts and beliefs, strength and vulnerability relate to each other. The artist interprets this problem on three interconnected levels: mind, body, and the unknown. The epistemological, social, anatomical and linguistic connections between these levels is what the artist strives to trace.