Ghostly presences haunt Tate Modern’s riverfront landscape in an immersive installation entitled The Influence Machine by American artist Tony Oursler, presented in collaboration with Artangel. This large-scale multimedia séance, which explores the deep history of virtual image production, was recently donated to Tate, along with several other works from the Artangel Collection.
Oursler conceived The Inﬂuence Machine as a kind of ‘psycho-landscape’, which traces the growth of telecommunication, from the telegraph to the radio, the television and the internet, with each technological leap accompanied by a struggle to define its usage. Delving deep into the history of media, Oursler created a historic sound and light show which invokes the spirit of the phantasmagorias of the late eighteenth century to investigate what he called ‘the dark side of the light’ – an alternative history of disembodied communication.
The work consists of monologues written by Oursler and performed by several ethereal figures which are projected onto trees, walls and clouds of smoke. Key names from media history are referenced, such as Kate Fox, purveyor of the spiritual telegraph, the television pioneer John Logie Baird and Etienne Gaspard Robertson, who used automatons and magic lanterns to create pre-cinematic performances in a Paris crypt in 1763. The haunting soundtrack, played on a glass harmonica, was composed by musician and expanded cinema pioneer Tony Conrad in collaboration with Oursler.
On Saturday 16 February, Tate Film will also present a programme of screenings of Oursler’s single-channel videos in the Starr Auditorium.
The Influence Machine by Tony Oursler was commissioned and produced by Artangel, developed with The Public Art Fund, New York, and co-commissioned with Beck’s; the project was presented in Soho Square in London, W1, in November 2000.
- Download the Optical Timeline by Tony Oursler (PDF, 750Kb)