Collection Artwork
Tony Oursler (born New York, 1957)
Talking Light
CD, flood light bulb (no. 212, 150 watts), sound organ kit with attached electrical cord, screw with hook, black electrical cable with socket for light bulb
Parkett (Zurich and New York, established 1984)
Gift of Peter Norton
published in Zurich, Switzerland, Europe
Inscribed and signed in ink, on Parkett business-size card listing artwork’s basic information: 38/60 / Tony Oursler

Object Label

In Tony Oursler’s Talking Light, an incandescent light bulb hangs from the ceiling of the Tang Museum’s elevator; its intermittent flickering correlates to the sounds of the artist’s voice emanating from a hidden speaker. Oursler, speaking in a whisper, narrates an eerie, poetic monologue.

This work is one of several “talking lights” made by Oursler in the 1990s. These works developed out of the artist’s interest in simple materials, which he employs for their ability to disappear enough to allow viewers to conjure up things which are not there. This idea is linked to Oursler’s interest in supernatural phenomena and technology, in particular, technology’s ability to manifest human-like qualities. The connection between light and sound in Talking Light generate an anthropomorphic environment that lives and breathes as we are simultaneously transported from one floor to the next.

From the exhibition: Elevator Music 34
Tony Oursler: Talking Light (September 2, 2017 – January 7, 2018)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.

Tang Collective Catalog

It is dark and silent inside the Tang’s elevator. My ride is one floor down. The doors close. A raspy whisper breaks the silence, “The system is broken.” It repeats the phrase as the elevator starts moving. A small lightbulb hanging from the ceiling flickers in tandem with the voice, as it ebbs and flows in volume and intensity. I feel claustrophobic. The descent is sluggish. Is the disembodied voice part of a more complex mechanism? Can it sense my presence? The elevator doors open on the first floor. I breathe a sigh of relief and laugh as I exit.
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