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A Peek Inside Tony Oursler’s Exhaustive Archive Of Occult Ephemera

Tony Oursler is a multimedia artist best known for his hallucinatory video work and immersive installations that use new technology to explore ancient ideas. He’s also a packrat of the coolest degree, having collected various ephemera relating to all things paranormal, otherworldly, dark, and spiritual for the last 15 years. A new book designed by the London-based design studio Zak Group, Imponderable, gives a sort of visual history of the spectacular through over 1000 photographs, prints, and objects from Oursler’s archives.

Oursler started his archive in earnest in 2000 while making The Influence Machine, a projection mapped “seance” outside of the Tate, but his fascination with the occult stretches much further back. Oursler’s grandfather, at one point the editor and publisher of True Detective and True Romance, was a friend of Houdini and a well-known debunker of fraudulent spiritual mediums. His grandfather was also a pen pal of Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes novels, whose interest in the photographs of Cottingley fairies led him to start an archive of spiritual ephemera with which Tony Oursler got familiar. By the time he was studying art at CalArts with contemporaries Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw, Oursler was integrating this family fascination with the occult into his video and installation work.

Today, Oursler’s archives total to over 25,000 photographs, prints, publications, and unique objects that he keeps in his studio roughly organized by by labels like “Skeletons,” “Efgies,” “Hypnotism,” and “Apparitions.” We’ve chosen 23 of our favorites to display in the gallery above.

The book accompanies an exhibition at the LUMA Foundation in Zurich, Switzerland, Imponderable: The Archives of Tony Oursler.MM