Multimedia artist Tony Oursler will be at the Swiss Institute this Friday, November 13 to present his new book, Imponderable: The Archives of Tony Oursler. A book signing and discussion with the artist and curator Tom Eccles will be the focus of the event, which begins at 7pm. The book is a collection of works that Oursler has amassed since the 1990s, an archive of objects including photographs, rare books, historic manuscripts, letters and objects relating to magic, the paranormal, film and television, and more.
A multimedia artist, Tony Oursler was born in New York in 1957. His works have included everything from painting and sculpture to video, installation and performance. Oursler’s work has been exhibited at institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in New York as well as internationally at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Tate in Liverpool. Currently living and working in New York City, the artist was educated at the California Institute of the Arts and his current project is exhibited at LUMA Westbau in Zurich through February 2016.
Imponderable is a project that Oursler has been working on since the mid-1990s. Interested in the eclectic and the occult, Oursler began collecting what he considered a visual history of art, with objects dating back to the 1800s. Social, spiritual and intellectual themes run throughout the collection. Over 2500 objects encompass the collection itself. Imponderable is a 655-page tome designed by Zak Kyes. The resulting exhibition of the same name, which is currently on view in Zurich and will travel to the United States next year, was made possible by the LUMA Foundation, a Swiss organization that supports the enterprising work of independent artists in photography, multimedia and beyond. The exhibition is accompanied by the book and a 4D film created by the artist.
According to the press release, “The project’s title, Imponderable, suggests the idea of something that cannot be determined with accuracy. 18th century scientists used the word to describe magnetism, electricity, and other than 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.”
The collection exhibited in Zurich and within the pages of the book is an eclectic collection. One item is a news photograph from Kentucky in 1947. The caption reads: “Snake Cultists Who Regularly Defy Death…One branch of the Church of God has used poisonous snakes…in religious faith demonstrations… [According to Rev. Oscar Hutton] the snakes are symbols by which the faithful are willing to risk their lives ‘to prove the power of God.’ He believes that once ‘power’ is felt, the snakes are harmless.” Another item is a copy of the American Phrenological Journal from June 1848, a fascinating glimpse into the brain according to 19th-century scientists. A collection of magazines includes Scientific American from 1954, with a feature on spiders, and a Life Magazine with a feature on LSD. Additional topics in the book include stage magic, thought photography, demonology, cryptozoology, optics, mesmerism, automatic writing, hypnotism, fairies, cults, the occult, color theory and UFOs.
The Swiss Institute is located downtown at 18 Wooster Street, between Canal and Grand Streets. The event will feature talks by Noam M. Elcott, Assistant Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, artist Tony Oursler, Stephanie O’Rourke, PhD candidate in visual culture at Columbia University, and curator Tony Eccles. Reservations are requested and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.