'˜Ghosts' to take over George Square Gardens

Ghostly presences, supernatural sounds and other gloomy figures are set to take over Edinburgh University's George Square Gardens, which attract thousands of festival fans during the summer.

One of the sights set to transform Edinburgh Unis George Square Gardens
One of the sights set to transform Edinburgh Unis George Square Gardens

The Influence Machine, an “immersive outdoor experience” created by American artist Tony Oursler, will transform the beauty spot, which sits at the heart of the university’s main campus.

The Influence Machine, which will run for three days next month, has previously been staged in Madison Square Park, in New York, London’s Soho Square and outside the Tate Modern gallery.

Oursler, a Califonia Institute of Art graduate, who says he was inspired by the use of new technology to communicate with the dead, makes groundbreaking use of projection, animation, montage and live action in the project, which is billed as a “holographic model of human desire and dread”.

The Influence Machine consists of multiple video projections, each accompanied by a soundtrack, which will be merged in with the surrounding environment.

Images will projected onto trees, smoke and mist, while audiences will hear monologues scripted by Oursler and spoken by figures who continually appear and vanish.

Other props include a talking light, a technician’s hand and cryptic texts running vertically from tree trunks, with sounds of radio feedback and Morse code resonating in the background.

James Lingwood, co-director of Artangel, the arts organisation which commissioned the project, said: “John Logie Baird and Alexander Graham Bell are amongst the great figures in the history of disembodied communication who inspired Oursler’s extraordinary work.

“The Influence Machine has animated cities all over the world and it’s particularly exciting that the ghosts are now being let out of the machine to haunt George Square in November.”

Oursler’s work derives its name from a past invention, Francis Hauksbee’s 1706 Influencing Machine, a spinning glass globe half full of air, which transmits electrical sparks without practical application when touched.

The title was further inspired by psychoanalyst Viktor Tausk’s similarly named psychological condition, in which the patient sees their body as an ever-changing machine.

Both these aspects are apparent in Oursler’s show, which also makes use of age-old magic lanterns, Victorian light shows, camera obscura and parlour tricks.

Oursler said: “I borrowed the term ‘mimetic’ from pharmacology, where it is used to describe that class of drugs which mimics psychological states or provokes heightened states of consciousness. In the same way, or perhaps even more effectively, technology creates a dream space that mimics reality.”

The Influence Machine runs from November 23-26. Admission is free.