Talking Back: A Conversation with Tony Oursler

By Elizabeth Janus and Tony Oursler
Published in Williams College Museum of Art
Apr. 4, 2010

The history of this conversation dates back to 1993, when the Belgian magazine Forum International asked me to interview Tony Oursler. After discussing the prospect with the artist, we decided to put on paper segments of a real conversation that we had started when he was at the Centre dart contemporain in Geneva that same year, working on his installation White Trash and Phobic. This interchange revolved specifically around Ourslers latest work, which was at a crucial turning point at the time, as a few years earlier he had stopped producing the single-channel videotapes for which he was best known and had begun to concentrate almost exclusively on more elaborate installations comprised of human-like figures onto which he projected emoting or talking faces. We discussed, at length, larger questions about the evolution of video as an art form, especially the fact that more and more artists were turning to the medium and incorporating it as one means among many into their general output. Another issue that we addressed was how video had begun to move out of its ghetto, one in which specialized curators, critics, and other interested cognoscenti traveled the circuit of video festivals, which at the time were the primary venues for most video art. Already having a prominent place within this specialized scene, Oursler was in the process of breaking out of that tight-knit circle by showing his works in a number of European Kunsthallen and museums.