Tony Oursler

  • David Bowie performing at Hallenstadion, Zurich, April 18, 1976. Photo: Keystone/Redux.

    David Bowie

    WHICH ONE OF HIS CHARACTERS do you like best? It’s hard to say. Ziggy is too easy—perhaps the Man Who Sold the World or the Thin White Duke? All of them are, of course, associated with specific lyrics and music, their own time and place: Berlin, London, LA, Bali (where he requested that his ashes be scattered). Taken as a group—now, sadly, a fixed set—these guises established the rhythm of David Bowie’s career, and his fans can remember where they were in their lives when each one emerged. We can all remember, too, when we were first entranced by his strange voice and the unlikely

  • Photocollage created by a Scientologist artist and published in Monster magazine, mid-twentieth century.


    IN THE MID-1990S, when I was researching the camera obscura in relation to an installation I was planning, I began to discover some forgotten intersections in the histories of optics and architecture, which I felt had a particular relevance to multimedia art. While stringing together these various historical gems into a time line, I fell in love with a wide-ranging cast of characters and technologies, including the chemist and physicist William Crookes, the French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey, the mystic Katie King, and Athanasius Kircher’s magic lantern. Little did I know that I had fallen

  • Joan Jonas, Volcano Saga, 1989, video, color, sound, 28 minutes.

    “Joan Jonas: Light Times Tales”

    Since the early 1970s, Joan Jonas has been producing complexly atavistic, lyrical installations, often using video light as a fifth element and animating force in her cosmologies. Dogs, cones, stones, chalk lines, and landscapes figure large in the American artist’s lexicon of images and gestures as all flow smoothly through narrative and its fracturing, appearing and reappearing as drawings, sculpture, performative actions, and video. For this solo presentation, Jonas has chosen to darken the vast 43,000-square-foot hangar, removing all dividing walls, to present seven

  • Members of The Poetics, Los Angeles, 1977. Photo: Jim Shaw. From left: John Arnheim, Bill Stobaugh, Mike Kelley, Tony Oursler, John Miller.

    Tony Oursler


    WE MET AT THE SUPER SHOP, the wood and metal shop at CalArts. He was a smallish guy with slicked-back hair and skin that looked like it had plagued him since adolescence. It was his soft eyes, though, that contradicted the overall tough-guy look of khaki pants, ’Nam-vet boots, and ragged T-shirt, the cutoff sleeves revealing his skinny arms. I’d seen the guy puttering around, making some kind of strange boxes, but it was the image on his T-shirt that struck me: a freaky, drooling caricature from the Basil Wolverton–inspired Odd Rods series. This was an unmistakable icon from my

  • Guy de Cointet, My Father’s Diary, 1975. Performance view, Greene Naftali Gallery, New York, February 4, 2009. Mary Ann Duganne Glicksman.


    To take stock of the past year, Artforum contacted an international group of artists to find out which exhibitions and events were, in their eyes, the very best of 2009.


    “Pierre Bonnard: The Late Interiors” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) You kind of get the feeling that Bonnard was a real artist. He was concerned not with the past (art history), present (his contemporaries), or future (his legacy), but with expressing himself in terms of his own perceptions, interactions, and experiences of the world. Whether of a room, a still life, or a loved one, each painting becomes

  • David Askevold


    MY PERSONAL COSMOLOGY of Conceptualism starts with snakes: David Askevold’s Kepler’s Music of the Spheres Played by Six Snakes, 1971–74, to be exact. As a student at CalArts in 1977, a time when the art department was known for its Conceptual slant—in retrospect, this could have been the last gasp of the last American “ism”—I heard Askevold lecture on the work. Even when conveyed only in slides and audio, Kepler’s Music of the Spheres struck me as a stunning installation; it mixes elements of performance, music, and homemade apparatus, featuring suspended live snakes that play a

  • Tony Oursler

    I USED TO USE COMPUTERS for animation and drawing in the mid-’80s, but then I started to feel that they were really a big waste of time. I still think a lot of the computer revolution is in the mind of the beholder. Of course, this is the most interesting thing about the Internet, the access to the mind of the individual. In cyberspace the amateur has access to a place once reserved for the powerful in media culture. For all the high-tech hype, the Internet turns out to be the greatest folk-art machine ever designed.

    Tony Oursler is an artist who shows at Metro Pictures in New York.