Tony Oursler : Tear of The Cloud

About the Exhibition

Since the 1980s, Tony Oursler (b. 1957, New York, NY) has been one the most experimental artists of his generation, consistently redefining installation art and the moving image. Tear of the Cloud is his newest and most extensive site-specific multimedia artwork, with five digital projections superimposed onto the landmarked 69th Street Transfer Bridge Gantry, the surrounding landscape, and the flowing water of the Hudson River itself. These spectral images combine with an evocative soundscape to create a dramatic experience that transforms Riverside Park each night.

Growing up on the banks of the Hudson River sparked Oursler’s fascination with its entwined cultural, technological, and ecological narratives, inspiring him to create an artwork that poetically mines the varied activities of the region. Oursler’s newly filmed footage highlights obscure subjects and popular culture, with performers portraying figures as wide-ranging as the Hudson River School painters, the 19th century utopian community of Oneida, the strong female lead Pearl White of early serial silent cinema created on the Palisades, and the pioneers who developed experimental music in Lower Manhattan and the South Bronx, among others. The exhibition also explores the more doleful stories of Mary Rogers’ infamous murder at Sibyl’s Cave in New Jersey and the dubious legacy of PCB contamination of the waters, as well as a rethinking of the antecedents, origins, and offspring of telecommunication by way of the talking drum, inventor Samuel F.B. Morse’s final painting of his daughter The Muse, IBM’s chess-playing computer Deep Blue, artificial intelligence, and the political agitation of social media bots.

Tear of the Cloud manifests this data by remixing contemporary and historic iconography in a non-linear, associative rereading of official narratives. Oursler’s kaleidoscopic intervention interweaves its roving cast of characters like the many tributaries that feed the Hudson River, offering layered connections and multiple meanings that illuminate our complicated past, encourage us to reflect upon the present, and inspire us to reconsider the future of our environment and culture.

The exhibition is curated by Public Art Fund Associate Curator, Daniel S. Palmer.




7 – 10PM, Tuesday – Sunday Riverside Park South / Hudson River

between 70th and 71st on the Hudson River Greenway

Get Directions


Visiting the Exhibition

The exhibition is located in Riverside Park South between 68th and 70th Streets along the Hudson River. Entrance is at West 68th Street and Riverside Boulevard.

Hours: 7 – 10PM, Tuesday – Sunday
Subways: 2, 3 to West 72nd Street; 1 to 66 Street – Lincoln Center Station

About the Artist

Tony Oursler (b. 1957, New York, NY) lives and works in New York City. His museum exhibitions include The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2017); Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art, Stockholm, Sweden (2016); Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-On-Hudson, NY (2016); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2016); LUMA Westbau, Zurich, Switzerland (2015); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2014); Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2014); Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev, Ukraine (2013); ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark (2012); Helsinki City Art Museum, Finland; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2005); Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2001); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2000) and Kunstverein Hannover, Germany (1998). He has also participated in prestigious group exhibitions including documenta VIII and IX, Kassel, Germany (1987 and 1992). Oursler’s work is included in public collections worldwide, among them the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Museum of Osaka, Japan; Tate Collection, London, UK; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands and ZMK/Center for Art & Media, Karlsruhe, Germany.


Below is a Glossary of Terms for key people, places, stories, and ideas that figure prominently in Tony Oursler: Tear of the Cloud. The Glossary of Terms should be viewed as a companion to the artwork and not as an official narrative of the Hudson River Valley region. It is designed to illuminate the connections Oursler has drawn across space and time to emphasize the region's impact on society. Paired with the exhibition's Image Map, the Glossary of Terms offers insight into Oursler's conception of this complex, multilayered exhibition.

See Also
Artificial Intelligence Bots
Autonomous computer programs that replicate the natural intelligence of humans. Most notably in recent years, bots on social media have sowed unrest in U.S. political elections through viral amplification of partisan politics such as the debunked #Pizzagate conspiracy theory.
Black Maria
Thomas Alva Edison's tar-paper shack studio at his laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey where Edison made his films. The unusual structure featured a roof, which lifted up so that sunlight could come into the darkened interior for filming, and it revolved on a track enabling it to follow the sun.
Cloud, the
A shorthand term for "cloud computing" and the concept of using remotely controlled computers for the purposes of storing data and running programs.
Color Guard
Uniformed group, typically consisting of soldiers, that marches in parades or represents its institution's flag on ceremonial occasions.
Computer Games
A type of interactive multimedia simulation that is played on a personal computer. Computer games possess varying outcomes that are determined by the player(s). Many of these take the form of competitive sports, such as early video games like Pong, or are war games based on military combat scenarios such as Battlezone, or more fantastical Sci-Fi adventure games like Asteroids.
Deep Blue
Developed by IBM, this chess-playing computer was the first system to win a game and match against the reigning world champion, defeating Russian chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov in 1997 with a cunning "knight sacrifice" that indicated the machine's artificial intelligence progress.
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a molecule composed of double helix nucleotides, which carries the genetic information of all living organisms.
Facial Recognition
A computing technology capable of identifying and/or verifying a person using artificial intelligence to analyze digital images or video frames that isolate the features and texture of a face. This technology is now regularly active in mobile computing and for surveillance purposes.
Grandmaster Flash
An American hip-hop artist who pioneered DJing. He was an innovator of remixing music through methods of cutting, scratching, and sampling.
Great West Point Chain
A chain built by the United States Army to prevent British forces from travelling north up the Hudson River toward West Point during the Revolutionary War. The chain stretched about 600 yards long once completed in 1778, with each of its two-foot links weighing about 114 pounds.
Haverstraw Bricks
Many of the buildings in New York City were made from bricks manufactured in Haverstraw, NY, in Rockland County. Large deposits of clay were discovered in the 18th century on the Hudson’s shore in this region. Eventually, the area contained over 40 brickyards (each with its own mark stamped on its bricks), shipping more than one billion bricks annually. These were the proto-digital architectural building block modules that largely enabled the region's massive industrial expansion.
Headless Horseman
A fictional character from Washington Irving's 1820 short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." He is described as a malevolent ghost who rises each Halloween and rides on horseback in search of his lost head, which had been decapitated by a cannonball during the Revolutionary War.
Hendrix, Jimi
One of the most celebrated musicians in the 20th century, known for his skilled playing of the electric guitar, he pioneered the use of feedback and distortion as electronic sound sources. Hendrix created Electric Lady Studios recording studio in Greenwich Village, New York City, and notably performed at Woodstock Festival in Bethel, NY.
Hollow-Face Illusion
Optical illusion in which a concave mask appears as a convex face. The artist has combined this image with a schematic of the cathode ray tube, the vacuum tube that modulates, accelerates, and deflects electrons onto a phosphorescent screen to create images (often in the context of a television or computer).
Hopper, Edward
American artist, known for his realist oil paintings typically depicting urban scenes of desolation, who lived and worked around Nyack, NY. His house in Haverstraw, NY, which he painted in "House by the Railroad" in 1925, bears a striking resemblance to the Bates Mansion that Alfred Hitchcock created for his 1960 film "Psycho".
Hudson River
A 315-mile long river that flows from its highest source, Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondack Mountains, to the Atlantic Ocean at New York Harbor. The Lenape called it "Muhheakantuck," which translates as "river that flows two ways."
Hudson River School
A mid-19th century American art movement comprised of landscape painters who primarily painted the Hudson River Valley and its surrounding areas. Two of its central figures, Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church, resided on either side of the river just north of Dutchman's Landing. Their environmentalist ethos extended to manipulating their surroundings, as is evidenced by the landscape Church created around his famed Olana house
Indian Point
Also known as Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant located in Buchanan, NY. It is planned to close by 2021 as a response to community concerns about its environmental impact.
Jacquard Loom
A device that simplifies the production of intricate patterns such as brocade, damask, and tapestry, by using punch cards to determine the sequence of the design and control specialized looms. Invented in 1804/5 by French weaver and merchant, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, it is considered one of the earliest computing technologies and a precursor to modern computers.
Join, or Die Snake
One of the first American political cartoons, created in 1754 by Benjamin Franklin, it was meant to emphasize the importance of colonial unity in the years leading up to the American Revolutionary War.
Lake Tear of the Clouds
The highest pond in New York state and the highest source of the Hudson River, located in the Adirondack Mountains in the town of Keene, in Essex County, NY.
Leary, Timothy
An American psychologist and author whose work explored the therapeutic properties of psychedelic drugs after being introduced to LSD by a British researcher named Michael Hollingshead. He developed a theory of the "eight-circuit model of consciousness," equating the brain's wiring with the circuitry of computer hardware. He established his residence and commune at Hitchcock Estate, a large mansion in Millbrook, New York. According to legend, at the end of his life, he left instructions for his head to be removed from his body and cryogenically frozen to preserve it until doctors found an antidote for death.
Lysergic acid diethylamide (also referred to as “acid”) is a hallucinogenic drug often used for recreational or spiritual purposes. Common psychological effects of LSD include strong visual hallucinations and illusions. Adverse reactions of anxiety, paranoia, and delusions – or a "bad trip" – causing an individual to "lose one's head" tempered the utopian appeal of the drug and its popularity from the 1960s to 1980s, marking a shift in drug abuse toward more prevalent opiate abuse in the post-industrial era.
A complex abstract design, typically with a circular form.
Manhattan Project
Code name for a research and development project led by the United States that produced the first atomic weapons during World War II. Nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer directed the Los Alamos Laboratory in the design of the bombs, which the U.S. government dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945, killing between 130,000 and 230,000 people and injuring countless others. This decision profoundly impacted the world both politically and socially, ushering in the Atomic Age.
Mesmer, Franz
A German doctor whose theory of animal magnetism proposed that there was an energetic transference of an invisible force, similar to that of a magnet, between all entities. This theory gained a wide following between 1780 and about 1850, and it's most notable contribution was its influence on Scottish doctor James Braid, who derived a technique of hypnosis based on animal magnetism, also known as mesmerism.
Followers of American Baptist preacher, William Miller, who predicted that the Second Advent of Jesus Christ would occur between 1843 and 1844. They proselytized through intricately detailed charts with mathematical calculations and illustrations referencing a bearded king, white horse, and demon multi-headed dragon. The absence of such an event on the date that was eventually set – October 22, 1844 – ultimately lead to what is known as the Great Disappointment.
Molecular Recorder
Scientists have recently made significant advances in encoding and then retrieving data in DNA from living cells. The CRISPR gene editing technology has been used to store sequences of DNA in bacteria to record moving images of Edweard Muybridge's motion picture of a galloping horse.
Morse Code
Morse code is a form of communication that transmits information using of dots and dashes, or short and long sounds, named after Samuel F.B. Morse, the creator of the telegraph.
Muse, The
"Susan Walker Morse (The Muse)" is one of the last paintings by Samuel F.B. Morse, created ca. 1836–37. The canvas depicts his eldest daughter, looking upward as if with divine inspiration as she sets her pencil to paper. Morse painted this picture during the same years that he was inventing the telegraph. It foretells the technology's eventual ubiquity and the social change that it and its communications offspring brought to the world. It also holds another connection – his early telegraph prototype was created using stretcher bars, more traditionally employed to hold an artist’s canvas taut.
Neural Network
Inspired by the biological networks from animal brains, artificial neural networks "learn" computing tasks by considering examples that have been labeled as fitting within a set category. Artificial intelligence neural networks have been used in facial recognition and speech recognition technologies.
Nyack, New York
Village in Rockland County, NY, on the west bank of the Hudson River. Named after the Native Americans who lived in the region before European settlement. This is the town where Tony Ourlser was raised.
Founded in 1848 in Oneida, New York, the Oneida Community was a perfectionist religious communal society that practiced a form of complex marriage and manufactured silverware and game traps to maintain economic independence. Their silverware remains popular today.
Opium is a narcotic drug that binds opioid receptors in the nervous system, signaling an absence of pain to the brain. They are made from the dried latex contained within opium poppy plants processed chemically to produce heroin and other synthetic opioids. Opium in the form of heroin is often injected after heated and liquefied in a spoon. While opiates have been used in America since the 1800s, they have had a devastating impact on the country in the post-Industrial era.
Polychlorinated biphenyl is an organic chlorine compound found in dielectric and coolant fluids. PCBs were banned in the United States in 1978 due to their environmental toxicity and classification as an organic pollutant. Between 1947 and 1977, General Electric (GE) dumped an estimated 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson River.
Perils of Pauline
A 1914 American melodrama film that was shown serially in weekly installments. It featured Pearl White as the title character, a damsel in distress whose "cliffhanger" scenes were filmed on the New Jersey Palisades, on the western bank of the Hudson River.
Punch Card
An early data processing technology that uses a stiff piece of paper with specially placed holes to control automated machinery or applications. These cards were typically used in early computer programs for data input, output, or storage. Early electronic computing took over the mathematical calculations of "human computers," typically women during World War II, who undertook the complex calculations. Accordingly, the world's first professional computer programmers were women, who were drafted from the Manhattan Project's staff of human computers, where they were instrumental to the calculations and research that led to the production of the first nuclear weapons.
Raven, The
Edgar Allan Poe's 1845 narrative poem about a supernatural talking raven's visit to a distraught lover.
Rogers, Mary
Murder victim whose body was mysteriously found in the Hudson River, and who inspired Edgar Allan Poe's 1842 detective story "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" (after Poe was kicked out of West Point). This is thought to be the first murder mystery based on a real crime. It pioneered modern forensics through analysis of data from the case's known facts. It also used deduction and new ways of reading unexplored angles in the story to posit an explanation for the sensational mystery of Rogers’ death that captured the attention of the nation.
Seal of the City of New York
Official symbol of the city, designed in 1915 and adapted from an earlier form from 1686. It bears the Latin inscription "Sigillum Civitatis Novi Eboraci" which means "The Seal of the City of New York." It features a shield with a windmill to recall the city's Dutch history, along with beavers and flour barrels to signify early trade goods, and a bald eagle resting on a hemisphere that was added after the American Revolution. 1625 refers to the date when Fort Amsterdam was designated the capital of the New Amsterdam province. The seal also features a sailor colonist with a cross-staff over his right shoulder, holding a navigational tool. The other side of the shield includes a problematic depiction of a Lenape Native American. Its inclusion in this exhibition is part of a collaboration between Tony Oursler and New Red Order, who are attempting to raise awareness about the seal's insensitive depiction of Manhattan's first inhabitants and advocating that the city change it.
Sibyl’s Cave
A natural spring excavated in 1832 in Hoboken, New Jersey, that became an attraction when people travelled from afar to drink its pure waters. It was also the site where a young woman named Mary Rogers was mysteriously found dead in 1841, causing her fiancé to commit suicide nearby after becoming distraught by her sensationalized death.
Talking Drum
Named after its ability to mimic human speech and communicate sound patterns over long distances, the talking drum is an hourglass shaped drum that originated in West Africa.
A transmission technology that communicates text or symbols over a long distance from a sender to a receiver without the physical exchange of a written message. Communication was accelerated in the 19th century with Samuel Morse's electrical telegraphy invention, and in the 20th Century with radio and internet age methods of digital communication. While telegraphy advances accelerated communication and sped up daily life and cultural change, they often struggled with a delay in relaying their message. Oursler connects this to the lag between events like the Seneca Falls convention in 1848 and women's suffrage being achieved years later in 1920 (symbolized by the yellow rose).
Miniature electronic components made from semiconductors to amplify electronic signals and power, generally used in integrated circuits and serving as the foundation of modern electronic devices. The first practically implemented transistor was created in 1947 at Bell Labs, revolutionizing the field of electronics and allowing for radios and computers to become smaller and cheaper, while also allowing significant advances in Cold War-era military technologies.
An infectious disease that generally affects the lungs, caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB). It was the cause of death of Edgar Allan Poe's mother and wife.
West Point
United States Military Academy located in Orange County, NY, established in 1802. Its campus is sited on strategic high ground on the western bank of the Hudson River.
White Horse
Highly symbolic animals in many culture's mythologies throughout the world. They often carry sacred connotations, are associated with fertility, or emblematic of an apocalyptic symbol of end times (of the Four Horsemen, Death rides on a "pale" horse). In the game of chess, a knight piece is sometimes referred to as a white horse.
A music festival held in the summer of 1969 in Bethel, NY in the Catskill Mountains, which lasted three days and saw 400,000 visitors. Performers included Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly and the Family Stone, among others.