Now in an English-only edition published for two parallel exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art and Bard College, Imponderable features highlights from the incredible magic and occult collection of New York–based artist Tony Oursler (born 1957). Since the late 1990s, Oursler has been amassing a vast personal archive of objects and ephemera relating to magic, the paranormal, film, television, phantasmagoria, pseudoscience and technology. For Oursler, the archive functions as an open visual resource, historical inquiry and—most intriguingly—a family history. One of the collection’s many digressions records the friendship between the artist’s grandfather Charles Fulton Oursler (a famous early 20th-century author and publisher) and magician and escapologist Harry Houdini, and a historic interaction with Arthur Conan Doyle, who, beyond his Sherlock Holmes series, was an important advocate for spiritualism and the paranormal.
This beautifully produced publication features up to 1,500 objects from Oursler’s collection, including photographs, prints, historic manuscripts, rare books, letters and objects. Additional topics include stage magic, thought photography, demonology, cryptozoology, optics, mesmerism, automatic writing, hypnotism, fairies, cults, the occult, color theory and UFOs. Thirteen essays by renowned art historians, science specialists and international scholars provide a deep insight into this unique material.