Ghostly presences will haunt the winter landscape around Tate Modern in an other-worldly installation by American artist Tony Oursler.
Oursler, who directed the video to David Bowie's new single Where Are We Now?, is renowned for his imaginative use of projection and performance to create immersive environments, and this example is among several works by major video and film artists donated to Tate from the Artangel Collection in 2011.
Playing on both the technological and supernatural meanings of the word 'medium', The Influence Machine is conceived as a kind of 'psycho-landscape' in the spirit of late eighteenth-century phantasmagorias. It examines the machines that have been created as tools of communication, from the radio to the telephone, the television and now the internet, and explores this history of disembodied voices and fleeting images.
The work consists of monologues performed by several ethereal figures which will be projected onto trees, walls and clouds of smoke around Tate Modern's riverside landscape.
Key names from media history are referenced, such as Kate Fox, purveyor of the spiritual telegraph, 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. These elements combine to create a fractured multimedia world of spectres, sounds and light.