Thought Forms

By Tony Oursler
Published in
Feb. 25, 2006

Tony Oursler's 2006 show "Thought Forms" have 3 large sculptures that all have a primary projection with background projections to create an entire atmosphere in each galley. The poetic scripts personify the 3 elements Water, Dust and Mercury and identify them while relating them to the flux of humanity.

Oursler has continued to use tradition theatrical techniques, grease paint and actors along with video editing, but this new group of works incorporates intensive computer animation. The group Eye Beam, Art and Technology worked closely with him to produce these images. He has also used a 5.1 surround sound system in each room to highlight the three dimensionality of the combination poetry, sound effects.

"Nix", the water sculpture, has a slushy, melting appearance while the background projection creates the impression of light reflecting off water at night. Tony includes mythological, environmental references in this personification of the element that cover most of this planet; water. The title "Nix" is the name of a water spirit that would lure people, seducing them playfully into the water at night and drown them. In this installation the myth is a departure point for speculation: is water taking revenge on humanity due to the stresses on the natural resource that we need but do not protect?

The statistic, often quoted that we are all made of roughly of 90% water is only one of the ways that we are united by the element: drinking, sweating and waste output. Water is a sad salty teardrop and a vast oceanic expanse. As distasteful as it may be for some to realize it is constantly traveling from body to body. The neutrality of water being odorless, tasteless, colorless allows us to bend it to our will, personified it would be vulnerable a push over with no personality. Yet it is capable of causing enormous natural disasters. This duality is captured in "Nix".

Mercury's background is a starry night in motion, bringing into question where exactly are we, on this planet or another? Are we in a fantasy or hallucination? The sculpture exaggerates our obsession with self-image by highlighting the natural reflective mirror-like aspect of the element. Facial features have lost logical connections and are drifting occasionally coming together only to fall away again. Rich in metaphor, it is a volatile element that is easily broken yet highly poisonous and often associated with madness. The scattered appearance and contradictory text refer to the complexities and banalities of daily life mental illness. In brain chemistry, sometimes a few molecules make all the difference in the world. 

Dust is suspended from the ceiling with projections on the two walls behind it. The dust cloud is floating in a baron landscape of suggestive rising smoke. As the sphere roils arms, eyes, legs, and mouths appear and disappear in the cloud of dust that swarms above our heads. It is in every breath we breathe.

All three installations share the state of flux, a point at which formation of dispersions could take place. Dust played an important part in the creation of this planet over millions of years, but could have just as easily never solidified. We still receive stardust, residue from the Big Bang, at the rate of one particle every few meters per day. These mix with a multitude of particles in our atmosphere from industrial waist, cremated bodies, bits of human skin and hair. To look at the small helps us to understand the larger picture. "From dust to dust", is a reminder of the temporal nature of life. Indexically dust represents all mans endeavors in bits and pieces to be clearly read by anyone interested. It's a mighty element generating thunderstorms in a continual cycle of building itself up to explosive form, depletion, only to repeat the process again and again.