Les archives de Tony Oursler
Commissioned and produced by the LUMA Foundation for the Parc des Ateliers in Arles (France), the project’s title, “Imponderable,” suggests knowledge beyond our comprehension; that which cannot be precisely determined, measured or physically evaluated. Eighteenth-century scientists used the word to describe magnetism, electricity, and other then unquantifiable energies, many of which are represented in Oursler’s archive. The imponderable also suggests an area of open speculation populated by numerous conflicting belief systems. But Oursler is also interested in how even the most incredible ideas can be presented in such a way that they convince the audience of their veracity. In particular this means the debunking of ideas and the limits, or lack thereof, of human credulity.
The landscape of the archive covers numerous categories such as: stage magic, thought photography, demonology, cryptozoology, optics, Mesmerism, automatic writing, hypnotism, fairies, cults, pareidolia, the occult, color theory and UFOs. For Oursler, nested and mirrored within this archive is an intriguing family history.
Curated by Beatrix Ruf (Director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam) and Tom Eccles (Director of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College), “Imponderable” comprises three elements that “translate” the original archival materials into a new exhibition for Arles; a film by Tony Oursler exploring the conflicting and overlapping belief systems implicit within his grandfather’s engagement with the debunking of paranormal activity, an installation by the artist in which takes a more factual, didactic, the broader reach of the archival material is presented and a six-hundred page, fully illustrated publication that makes the archive available to the public for the first time.
This exhibition was presented in The Forges from July 6 through September 20, 2015.