Tony Oursler’s Imponderable (2015–16) offers an alternative depiction of modernism that reveals the intersection of technological advancements and occult phenomena over the last two centuries.
Presented in a “5-D” cinematic environment utilizing a contemporary form of Pepper’s ghost—a 19th-century phantasmagoric device—and a range of sensory effects,Imponderable is an immersive feature-length film inspired by Oursler’s own archive of ephemera relating to stage magic, spirit photography, pseudoscience, telekinesis, and other manifestations of the paranormal. Drawing on these objects, Imponderable weaves together a social, spiritual, and empirical history of the virtual image that overlaps with the artist’s own family history. A cast of characters including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, Mina “Margery” Crandon, and members of Oursler’s family are portrayed by an eclectic ensemble of artists, musicians, and performers including Kim Gordon, Jim Fletcher, Keith Sanborn, and Constance DeJong. Bringing together Oursler’s ongoing interest in mysticism, psychedelia, popular culture, and media history, the work employs macabre humor and theatrical surrealism to reflect on the irrational relationship between belief systems and the authenticity of images.Imponderable is presented in conjunction with selections from Oursler’s archive relating to the film.
This exhibition coincides with Tony Oursler: The Imponderable Archive, on view at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, June 25–October 30, 2016. Imponderable was originally commissioned and produced by the LUMA Foundation for the Parc des Ateliers, Arles, France, and LUMA Westbau, Zurich, Switzerland, 2015.