By Tine Schmidt Haislund Jensen
3. March – 29. July 2012
What defines genius, and what is madness? In Face to Face, Tony Oursler challenges our understanding of the human mind and its capability to transform from one extreme to another. Working with film media since the 1970s, Oursler distorts the frame and form by projecting his films onto sculptures, puppets and water, creating abnormal faces and creatures that talk to the audience.
Oursler’s use of untraditional forms and materials as background settings for his films is clearly demonstrated in Face to Face. Cyc, a sculptural canvas shaped by two balls set on top of each other, is a great example of how Oursler communicates with his audience. The top part shows one of the artists’ eyes wearing thick blue make-up, while the bottom part is the artists’ mouth kissing us. Although primitive in form, the idea of a face is created. The soundtrack is Oursler’s voice, letting us know how much he loves us.
Through these talking forms and fractions of faces, a sense of being bombarded with emotions is inevitable, and that is just what Oursler wants. Some of the faces want to talk to us and engage in a conversation with us, while a comet is complaining about heat. Others are shy and get nervous around us. This constant communication, that is forced to be one-way, creates a claustrophobic atmosphere and a sense of unease. Oursler manages to create a universe that borders on schizophrenia and madness, but at the same time establishes meaningful and lovable characters.
A particularly disturbing emotion is created in Oursler’s Eyes. In a dark room Oursler has placed small screens hanging from the ceiling, each of them showing a film of an eye. A feeling of being watched from all sides creates an unsettling emotion, but after a closer look, none of the eyes are actually looking straight at you. This forces the question: Who is looking at whom?
Tony Oursler is famous for these mind-twisting characters, and for his challenging attitude towards film, form and space. Oursler is a well-established artist and his works can be seen around the world. Although each work represents itself powerfully enough, it is spectacular to be allowed to experience such a large collection of his works in one exhibition. The curators have managed to let Oursler’s works explain their reasons for being, by allowing the visitor to walk through a stream of conversations with the artworks themselves. This ongoing conversation, with such a large amount of artworks, naturally creates an understanding not only the artworks, but of Oursler himself.
The combination of hysteria, humour, schizophrenia and madness is beautifully entwined and allows us to become part of each emotion. We are allowed to test our own borderline emotions in a safe, but absolutely mad environment.