The artist's own archive of phantasmagoria: a unique collection of objects and ephemera relating to magic, the paranormal, occultism, pseudoscience, technology as well as their cultural and media portrayals.
Started in the Nineties, Oursler's vast personal archive functions as an open visual resource, historical inquiry, and—most intriguingly—a family history. One of the collection's many digressions is the friendship between the artist's grandfather Charles Fulton Oursler—a famous early 20th Century author and publisher—and magician and escapologist Harry Houdini, their joint campaign against fraudulent mediums, and a historic interaction with Arthur Conan Doyle, who, beyond his Sherlock Holmes series, was an important advocate for spiritualism and the paranormal. This publication features up to 1,200 objects from Oursler's collection, including photographs, prints, historic manuscripts, rare books, letters, and objects. Additional topics include stage magic, thought photography, demonology, cryptozoology, optics, mesmerism, automatic writing, hypnotism, fairies, cults, the occult, color theory, and UFOs. Linking these wide-ranging materials is Oursler's underlying interest in belief systems and human nature—the suspension of disbelief, or perhaps just our propensity to believe. The material in Oursler's collection broadens recent explorations of technology and mystical cultural production, investigating the relationships between science, pseudo-science, religion, and the occult with visual and archival documents that demonstrate the power of images to carry and challenge our most cherished beliefs.
Tony Oursler (born 1957, lives and works in New York) is a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts. His works have been exhibited in numerous museums, including the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, 2014), Pinchuk Art Centre (Kiev, 2013), ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum (Denmark, 2012), Helsinki City Art Museum (Finland, 2005), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 2005), KunsthausBregenz (Austria, 2001), and the Whitney Museum (New York, 2000). Oursler has participated in prestigious collective exhibitions such as Documenta VIII and IX. His works are also included in many public collections, such as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), MoMA (New York) and the Tate (London).