HABITAT: OBSESSIONS—A LOOK AT TONY OURSLER’S SPIRITUALIST PARAPHERNALIA

BY Katherine McMahon

Published in Art New, September 28th, 2016

Tony Oursler in his New York apartment, holding an antique stereoscope viewer from the mid-1800’s.

Tony Oursler in his New York apartment, holding an antique stereoscope viewer from the mid-1800’s.

Habitat: Obsessions is a ten-part series of visits to the surprising non-art collections of art-world professionals.

Tony Oursler’s multimedia works often take the form of a video of a talking head or a blinking eye projected atop an inanimate object—a fabric dummy, a monochrome painting, or even a tree. These somewhat spooky pieces have their roots, in part, in Oursler’s extensive collection of magic and spiritualist paraphernalia. A selection of his holdings is included in “Tony Oursler: The Imponderable Archive,” an exhibition curated by Tom Eccles and Beatrix Ruf that is currently on view at the CCS Bard Hessel Museum in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, though his apartment in Manhattan is still well stocked with Ouija boards, Italian spell books, and other mementos of the fringe practices that fascinate him.

When I visited Oursler at his home, he was gearing up for the opening of “Tony Oursler: Imponderable” at the Museum of Modern Art, which features more ephemera and an immersive film. In the workspace below the artist’s apartment, an assistant was putting the final touches on that feature-length film, also titled Imponderable, which was produced using a contemporary form of Pepper’s ghost—a 19th-century phantasmagoric device.

A look through Oursler’s spiritualist paraphernalia follows below.