The Influence Machine

The Influence Machine is part of The Artangel Collection. Since its initial presentation in 2000, it has been presented at the Whitworth, the University of Manchester in 2011, at Tate Modern London in 2013 and at Wolverhampton Art Gallery in 2014.

  • Artist: Tony Oursler
  • Title: The Influence Machine
  • Date: 2000
  • Medium: Video, multiple projections, sound and smoke
  • Dimensions: Overall display dimensions variable
  • Duration: variable


Oursler isn’t claiming to be a magus. He’s a child of the Seventies, of the television age, the same age as systems such as cable and satellite and the web. The polyphonic aural universe fascinates Oursler... In his art, he listens in and collects evidence of the senses in the altered conditions of consciousness that now prevail. — Marina Warner, Tony Oursler: The Influence Machine, London and New York, 2000

The Influence Machine is a multi-multimedia work which haunts an urban landscape with spectres, sound and smoke. Picking up on ideas from historical phantasmagoria and son-et-lumiere animations of historic sites, videos of talking heads are projected on to smoke, trees and buildings, their fractured monologues combining to make a dissonant confessional chorus of the mass media age. One of these figures, appearing and disappearing in the smoke, is a longstanding collaborator, Tracy Leipold, who Oursler calls "the medium". Her dialogue makes references to key names from media history such as television pioneer John Logie Baird and Etienne Gaspard Roberston who founded the first moving image thieatre in a Paris crypt in 1763. Running through it all is a soundtrack composed by Tony Conrad and performed on a glass harmonica. It is as if the ghosts of the machines of disembodied communication from the telephone to television and the internet have been let out to roam at night.

Image: Tony Oursler, The Influence Machine, 2000 installation at Tate Modern, 2013. Photograph: © Tate, London, 2013


at Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Wolverhampton, 29 October - 1 November 2014

Tony Oursler's phantasmagoric work was presented in St Peter’s Gardens outside Wolverhampton Art Gallery over four nights in the autumn of 2014. 

Image: Tony Oursler, The Influence Machine, 2000 (detail) at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, 2014. Photograph: Courtesy Tony Oursler Studio

at Tate Modern

London, 15-19 February 2013

To celebrate 'The Influence Machine' entering into the Tate's collection, the work was presented on the riverside outside Tate Modern in February 2013. The presentation was accompanied by a programme of Oursler's early films and a Q&A between James Lingwood, Co-Director of Artangel and Iwona Blazwick, Director of Whitechapel Gallery

Video: the installation of The Influence Machine at Tate Modern, 2013. Courtesy of Tate.You can also watch this video on Vimeo.

at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester

Manchester, July 2011

Large spectral faces are being projected onto trees and buildings in Whitworth Park as part of one of the Manchester International Festival's more visual events - a showing of New York artist Tony Oursler's The Influence Machine. – Gordon Jackson, BBC News

The Influence Machine was shown on sixteen nights in the summer of 2011 as part of 'Projections', an exhibition of four moving image works from The Artangel Collection, shown within the context of the Whitworth, its collection, and the park that it shares with the city of Manchester. The Whitworth also presented a selection of Oursler's works inside the gallery, including a chronology of film and a talking lightbulb.

Video: the installation of The Influence Machine at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, 2011. Courtesy of Tony Oursler's Studio.You can also watch this video on Vimeo.

Previous Presentations

Since the launch of The Artangel Collection, The Influence Machine has been presented at: