Director, 1996

By Billy Rubin
Published in Vox Vernacular
Feb. 25, 2014

In his science-fiction novels, Philip K. Dick depicts simulacra that are occupied or controlled remotely. He suggests that this idealized technology separated from the fragile human form, which he perceives as a collective vessel of desire, will also carry the many flaws of its creators. The stuff of science fiction is now commonplace, as evidenced by the internet, surveillance systems, cell phones and drones. 

For Switch, Oursler drew his inspiration from Dick's interpretation of technology, based on the novelist's premise of the gap that exists between idea and reality. Created to be installed modularly within the liminal spaces of the Centre George Pompidou, the different elements were positioned in the hallways, on the ceiling and under the escalator. Two small projected twins perched in the metallic eaves, the Philosophers, relentlessly query truth in language and logic. Positioned atop a wall, the Director, a figure with an oversized projected head performed by David Bowie, issues omniscient commands to the passersby, involving them in a hallucinatory, cinematic process. The public becomes the subject of the work: as people move through the building and wait in endless lines outside at the entrance they are recorded in real time by cameras and projected onto a block-like screen inside the Centre. Oursler also created an interactive element for the visitor, a "poor-man's simulacrum" fashioned out of simple pan-tilt surveillance equipment and audiovisual gear to control a dummy. This device allows the viewer to "switch" location by speaking and seeing through the simulacrum and to operate simple, rotational movements on two axes. Switch thus conflates architecture, art viewing and the problematics of technology, their tools enabling us to modify our day- to-day existence but also permeate and expand our cultural field of vision and our notions of culture itself.