The Influence Machine

The Influence Machine is part of The Artangel Collection. Since its initial presentation in 2000, the work has been re-presented multiple times, including at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester in 2011, George Square Gardens, The University of Edinburgh in 2016 and Birmingham Cathedral in 2017.

  • 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 Robertson who founded the first moving image theatre in a Paris crypt in 1797. 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

Tony Oursler, The Influence Machine 2000 presented in Birmingham Cathedral in 2017. Photo: Luke Unsworth

at Birmingham Cathedral 

21 - 22 September 

Tony Oursler’s phantasmagoric outdoor projection The Influence Machine was shown in the grounds of Birmingham Cathedral. The work was presented in partnership with Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery to coincide with their 'I want, I want Art and Technology' exhibition, which explored the impact technological development has had on the visual arts and human interaction, over the last twenty years.


Image: Tony Oursler, The Influence Machine, 2000 installation at Birmingham Cathedral, 2017. Photograph: Luke Unsworth

Tony Oursler, The Influence Machine 2000 presented in George Square Gardens in 2016. Photo by Stewart Attwood

at George Square Gardens, The University of Edinburgh

23 - 26 November 2016

The Influence Machine was shown in George Square Gardens in Edinburgh and for the first time in Scotland, the birthplace of many inventors of early ‘influencing machines’ such as Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone and John Logie Baird and the television. It was presented by Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh College of Art and University of Edinburgh Festivals Office over four nights as part of the University's digital arts programme.

Image:  Tony Oursler, The Influence Machine, 2000 installation at George Square Gardens, The University of Edinburgh, 2016. Photograph: Stewart Attwood

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: