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Tony Oursler documents the psychosis of our virtual reality

An enormous amount of gallery space is devoted to a new piece called Optics, which presents various incarnations of virtual experience from rainbows to a camera obscura to a video of a woman and a man in angel and devil costume, sparring. The problem is, it doesn't convey the sort of deliciously interwoven observations Oursler makes in his timeline on the same subject, printed in the catalog, which traces the historical connection between projection and Satan and makes note of the various interpretations given to the rainbow over the centuries (Apple computer's logo, Oursler points out by way of intersecting those two subjects, is a rainbow-colored apple with a bite taken out of it. And yet it was Proctor & Gamble that got the rap for being satanic).

There is little apparent rhyme or reason for what "Introjection" curator Deborah Rothschild of the Williams College of Art selected. There are certainly better works in the catalog than there are in the show, including the piece on the cover. As a general rule of thumb, in this exhibit it's best to stick to the projected face pieces, which include MMPI (Red), Judy(a piece about a woman with multiple personality disorder), Underwater (Blue/Green) and Fear Flower.

Oursler's fascination with multiple personality disorder stems not from some fascination with exotic afflictions, but from the idea that MPD is an extreme manifestation of the way our minds normally work. Nowhere is this idea more convincing than in Side Effects. Here Oursler has dispensed with the thrift-store scarecrow duds and affixed five heads of varying sizes to a kind of freestanding head menorah. Each is projected with an image of Leipold delivering a monologue. At any given time one head is wheedling, one is reciting a series of numbers, one is berating itself or someone else for being a "highway queen," and still another complains, "You're making poor food choices."

Talking heads: Oursler's sculptures posit a world in which the marble gods of the Parthenon can speak. And they're bored.
Contemporary Arts Museum
Talking heads: Oursler's sculptures posit a world in which the marble gods of the Parthenon can speak. And they're bored.

What's most interesting about this piece is that each of the five monologues is the same, only they're staggered, so that the dominant persona (the largest of the five heads) cycles through the petty moods as well as the grandiose. Which is pretty close to what happens in real life. It's not the id versus the ego versus the persona, it's just a bunch of voices that rarely harmonize, and whom, perhaps, it's best to ignore.

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