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Nick Kaye: Oursler’s hybrid objects are designed to prompt processes of empathy and catharsis, frequently taking their effect in the viewer’s recognition of and identification with a “media entity” whose perceived presence may challenge the integrity and stability of the onlooker’s position. Exploiting, Oursler notes, “our natural instinct to see oneself in every perceived situation” (Oursler in Malsch 1995: 62-4), Crying Doll, like subsequent projections onto dummies, exposes the props and mechanisms of its operation: the untransformed materials comprising its seemingly unfinished body; the wooden support; the projector focused on its face, as if surveilling rather than animating its activity. Here, the very elements that assert the dummy’s occupation and functioning in the same space as the viewer also extend its emotional gesture, articulating the dilemma of its migration into the real space and spectacle of its exhibition. In this respect the composer Tony Conrad, one of Oursler’s collaborators, observes that:

These are not unified individual works in the modernist sense; each is an art piece which has made a break for it, has escaped the Frame, but then—hobbled by the tether of video (its cables, the implied—even if not visible—framing the edges of the video image)—it fails, importantly, to stand free, and instead is pinned in place, projected flat, a crushed soul, skewered in the din.(Conrad in Janus and Moore, 2001: 150-66)

Oursler notes that:

What makes the Crying Doll (1993) effective is its superhuman ability to never stop weeping, which in turn becomes horrifying to the viewer, who eventually must turn away. It is that moment of turning away that tests empathy. (Oursler in Rothschild 1999: 22)


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