artists share messages of hope: as the population of italy, and many other parts of the world, continue to endure lockdown conditions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, designboom — whose headquarters is in milan — has reached out to artists to share messages of hope with our readers worldwide. since beginning the initiative, dedications have been kindly contributed to us by olafur eliassondavid shrigleyjulian charrière, doug aitken, monica bonvicini, and tomás saraceno.


new york based artist tony oursler now sends us a video transmission via ventriloquist sculpture stooky bill, who invites our readers to share their insights, passion and creative forces during this time. we spoke with oursler more about bill, the media, and what he’s optimistic about for the future…




designboom: why stooky bill? what is his significance to you, and what drew you to him?


tony oursler: the sculpture was used by john logie baird, the scottish inventor of the mechanical television. the TV pioneer wanted to record and transmit a visage, but the intense amount of light needed for the apparatus to see an image would have burned the skin of anyone who was in front of the camera. so, he used a ventriloquist dummy to be the first ‘human’ figure to be transmitted in electronic form. bill helped us transition into a new age — he sacrificed much for our culture, always with a smile, as his skin peeled and cracked, and hair singed. he’s a vestigial figure, and also a reminder of the power of the handmade. anyone can do this.

artist tony oursler shares a message of hope during coronavirus lockdown
untitled drawing, 11 1/2 x 14, acrylic on paper



designboom: you’ve referred critically to telecommunications / media — ‘watching television: the corrosive, deadly, beautiful color of electronic waves washing over flesh’ (from blue dilemma, 2011). what’s your take on the rapid escalation of media during the pandemic?


tony oursler: pros and cons — people are back in their bodies. we are completely aware of real space and distance, as our lives depend on it. it’s a recalibration of the real and virtual. I love that more people are finding digital ways to be closer, rather than remain in a digital narcissistic feedback loop. mix in media monopolies, propaganda and a hyper-polarized public, and it turns out we are living in a moment which reflects a crisis beyond health. conspiracy is the new religion for the disenfranchised. 

artist tony oursler shares a message of hope during coronavirus lockdown
untitled drawing, 11 1/2 x 14, acrylic on paper



designboom: do you hope that people take this time to become more immediate, and look inside themselves…rather than overly engaging in the ‘outside’ (media)?


tony oursler: I hope infinitely for creative activation — a once in a lifetime pause to rethink things is where many of us are now. we can only hope that it’s a safe time for introspection without too much fear and terror. 

artist tony oursler shares a message of hope during coronavirus lockdown
the first known photograph of a moving image produced by baird’s ‘televisor’, as reported in the times on january 28, 1926 (the subject is baird’s business partner oliver hutchinson)



designboom: what are you afraid of regarding the future? what are you optimistic about?


tony oursler: afraid that the dark side of capitalism may have won, and we are living in one big conflict algorithm. we need new models. I’m optimistic that the arts and creative forces in all our endeavors can move things in the right direction, and can activate.



discover more of oursler’s work on his instagram, and at lehmann maupin and lisson gallery.