Oswald has a small but ambitious exhibition in Toronto entitled 'illuminated'' at the Edward Day Gallery. The gallery can be visited Tuesday through Sunday noon > 5PM, and the show is up until Sunday May 30th.
"...all of the pieces destined for inclusion are self-illuminating; and they all change over time. Some are very slow, part of my ongoing series of chronophotic moving stills of large crowds of individuals (stillnessence). Others are fast enough to create some interesting observational indeterminacy. There's also more variety in the matter of subject — it's not all pictures of people this time.
There is also a display of SuchTiming, the world's smallest IMAX showing (dedicated to IMAX co-founder Robert Kerr (AUGUST 28TH 1929-APRIL 29TH 2010))."
- John Oswald, May 2010
click to enlarge
Ed Day Gallery
952 Queen W
(just west of Shaw,
enter from the courtyard)
416 921 6540
Michael Jackson Vowels
This soundfile is a layer peeled from the final section of the composition DAB, performed by Michael Jackson and composed by John Oswald back in 1989. The sonic content consists of the all the vowels Mr Jackson sang in the recording Bad. Click the green Play button below to hear it.
The entire track DAB attributed to the anagramatic Alien Chasm Jock can be found here:
Radiant (Variant), by Holly Small, John Oswald and Emile Morin, an adaption which didn't include the complete staging of moving scrims and projections (hence the 'variant' in the title) premiered in Toronto during the Easter weekend. Here's a review:
The supreme craftsmanship of Small's mesmerizing Radiant shows the full weight of her wisdom and experience. Known as a collaborative choreographer, she has surrounded herself with a gilded creative team.
Her dancers are some of the best in the country - Johanna Bergfelt, Michael Caldwell, Keiko Kitano, Louis Laberge-Côté, Rebecca Mendoza and Jessica Runge. Inseparable from the movement are John Oswald's music and images, Emile Morin's scenography, Lionel Arnould's videography, Pierre Lavoie's lighting, Katharine Mallinson's Japanese-inspired costumes, and seven brass players (two trumpets, four trombones and a flugelhorn).
Everything about the piece is brilliantly thought through, and Small takes her time in the unfolding. The musicians are positioned in the surrounding upper galleries, where their ethereal, almost melancholy chords seem to come from the heavens. The stage itself has a cunning array of transparent panels upon which the projections play.
Small's world is one of fragile beauty and mystery. From the first burst of radiant light that reveals still bodies on the ground, to expressive movement bathed in luscious shadows, to the last image of a mummy-like Kitano undulating gently as she unwraps a long piece of drapery from her body, Small takes the audience through scenes that conjure up a myriad of ideas.
One sees everything from medieval images of cloaked death, to Zen-like samurai warriors, to hovering ghosts searching for peace and spirits who have found it, to new life arising from the ashes of the old. The movement itself is simple - sculptured poses, circle dances and parades - but the dancers must exercise exquisite control. Nothing must jar in this other world on the edge of memory.
And always, there are the ever-changing projections of an indistinct body, sometimes a corpse, sometimes a newly born being, wrapped in diaphanous material and floating in space. The piece is built around the play between the images on the screen and the live dancers on the stage. A secondary layer is the music score, at once mournful and tranquil, set against the breathing of the dancers, which is both laboured and joyous.
This is the rich dichotomy of Radiant, where birth and death are interchangeable yet seductive images.
Globe and Mail April 11th, 2009
click to enlarge
Frank's Last Turn
In 2007 a new edifice at Yonge and Dundas, the central intersection of
downtown Toronto, opened for business. It was eventually christened
Toronto Life Square. It features a very large (claimed to be the largest
in Canada) slightly curved LED screen which mostly shows short ads, but
every once in awhile, for a full minute, a giant fish swims slowly across
the screen, performing a slow horizontal pirouette. This high definition
vignette is entitled 'Frank's Last Turn'. It's one of six silent videos
John Oswald was commissioned to create just for this screen. Oswald has
explained that the fish actor was temporarily named Frank and there was
an additional fish stand-in named Gary. Both were purchased at a local
Chinese market. Frank did several takes. This video clip was shot in
real time and was literally Frank's last turn. He was dying (which is
why he's having trouble staying upright) and he was soon to become a
This photo shows approximately what the video looks like in context; but
because FONY does not endorse any of the products featured in the surrounding
billboards we've blanked them out (with a nod to Toronto artist Robyn Collyer's
similarly simplified cityscapes). Each of Oswald's videos is designed for
this specific site; several of them were shot looking out from the location
of the screen. 'Frank's Last Turn' has a more subtle connection to its
location: the fish is swimming west towards the Art Gallery of Ontario,
a few blocks to the west on Dundas. That building is newly renovated to
a design by Frank Gehry (the two fish Frank and Gary were named after him)
who grew up even further along the same street. The AGO looks a bit like
a big silvery fish.
There are a handful of other videos created for Toronto Life Square by other
artists, including Oswald's bandmate (in CCMC) Michael Snow. Unfortunately
they are rarely seen on this ad-dominated screen, on this ad-clad building
at a billboard infested intersection. There has been one reported sighting
of Frank in the past two years.
As part of the group art show Appropos at the Edward Day Gallery 952
Queen Street West (at Shaw) Toronto from July 3rd to July 27th 2008, a
selection of enlarged prints of plunderphonic album cover art, rare
items from the '80's and '90's, is being exhibited. Currently only half
of the covers are on display so please ask the staff at the gallery to
show you the rest. Copies of the very rare 1988 Plunderphonics 12" vinyl
EP will also be available for sale, with proceeds going to the making and
donation of a chronophotic plasma image to Toronto Sick Kids Hospital.
A Time to Hear for Here
Street view of the ROM Crystal
John Oswald's A Time to Hear for Here is a five-story high circadian mobile in sound that can in an unpredictable interval transform from a whisper in Mecca to a storm in Moncton. Distributed over dozens of loudspeakers and throughout each unique day are thousands of never ending combinations of sonic signifiers and musical moments in six-dimensional aural-architechtural time/space. Located in the new space-age wing of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, one of the largest natural and cultural history museums in North America, the exhibit is freely accessible daily, near the main entrance.
Several times a day, most of the system is employed to play one of several versions of Qui, which features up to 29 voices singing together in different languages. Qui was one subject of a recent cover story profile in Musicworks Magazine, but a short selective history of the piece in relation to some of its antecedents, by Anne Bourne, was edited out. You can read it here .
PrePlex Garth Brownsteen image by John Oswald (ca.1992)
In the Fall of 2010 Fony has released the vinyl prePLexure LP. Oswald has continued to work on Plexure ever since its CD release on Avant in 1993, and one version he has completed is Plexure Concentrate, which is featured on the LP. On the flipside is a revised version early sketch, entitled prePlex.
chronophotic installation instandstillnessence by John Oswald (ca.2004)
Chronophotics [greek: khronos time + phot light] is a term that has been applied to John Oswald's recent visual creations. It turns out that a similar term chronophotographs [time + light + drawing] was coined over a century ago by Etienne Marey to categorize his multiple exposure photographs of things, mostly people and animals, in motion. Oswald also uses people as his subject, but the images in his 'movies' neither move nor do they depict motion. Oswald seems to be more interested in painting with light than drawing. He uses a time-based chiaroscuro, or light/shade technique and hundreds of layers of cells or transparencies to keep his pictures constantly changing while remaining motionless.
Oswald's chronophotic works for art galleries exist as very large digital video files and complex computation-intensive equations (or as the ever-various DVD version L'Arc d'Apparition , available from OHMavatar ), but mLab web developer Jim Paterson has been working on a technique for demonstrating the effect on the web, shown here at this link.
Warning: this movie is the opposite of action-packed. Although, once the elements have loaded, there are dozens of changes in the image every second, these changes are minute - the picture will appear to remain relatively still. But the way you see it, in combination with subtle constant change, is what makes the experience moving.
The speed of your computer and your internet bandwidth have a direct effect on the transformation of this image. This is one instance where those with slow equipment have the advantage: the luxury of a more contemplative experience.
chronophotograph by Etienne-Jules Marey (ca. 1882)
"From Marcel Duchamp's 'Erratum Musical' (1913) which spliced together dictionary definitions of the word 'imprimer' with a score composed from notes pulled out of a hat, via William Burroughs's and Brion Gysin's 'cut-up' technique used to allow new meanings to 'leak in' by re-cutting existing texts, to John Oswald's releases which mixed and altered several musical sources, the history of the 20th century avant-garde can be read as the history of appropriation."
- Lina Dzuverovic
John Oswald replies:
"Nice to see these connections mentioned in the same sentence. In the early '70's I spent
an inordinate amount of time constructing some miniature tape pieces, which I call 'Burrows',
based on texts as read by Bill Burroughs. My first attempt at audio publishing, in 1975, was
not vinyl or cassette but a set of 10 of these 'Burrows' on reel-to-reel.
Many of the Burrows pieces have an odd characteristic - they are reversible compositions, incorporating
things like acoustic palindromes (when you play Bill Burroughs saying "I GOT" backwards it still, amazingly
sounds like "I GOT"). I realize now I could have made cassette tapes which you could flip over at any
point and hear the piece backwards, but at the time I was technically quite literal, and I dubbed full-track
(one mono track that is the full width of the tape) reel-to-reel tapes, and edited leader between the pieces
(this is the reel-to-reel form of indexing) which, when played on any reel-to-reel playback machine in either
direction would give the desired results, as long as it was played at the right speed. There was also a bonus
tape loop that came in the box.
I made a few of these dubs but I never managed to sell one and I don't remember giving any away, so as a
publishing venture it was a bust."
On Friday September 9th Oswald performed with fellow alto-saxist
Marshall Allen from Sun Ra's Arkestra. Oswald has often stated
that Allen has been his primary influence on the sax since the '60's,
but this is the first time they ever played together, in a special wind
quartet for this Space Music occasion, with trombonists Doug Tielli and Scott Thomson.
Then, for the opening concert of the New Forms Festival, on Thursday September 15th at the Western Front Lodge in Vancouver, for his first-ever solo piano recital, Oswald presented two sets of his Rascali Klepitoire compositions for Disklavier (an acoustic robot piano), mostly transformations of Bach, including the precise transcriptions he and Ernest Cholakis have made of Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations, and special live cameos by Christopher Butterfield singing Glenn Gould.
As an encore Oswald played spRite, a complete version of Igor Stravinsky's piano transcription for Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) but performed at very fast tempi. As a result it is not always an accurate performance, as it tests the mechanical limits of the piano, but this seems to make it all the more exciting.
Click green Play button below to hear Oswald's superfast Rite of Spring live performance :
Jackoscan was created in 2001 as a soundtrack to compliment Janéad O'Jakriel. It's source is a statement broadcast worldwide by Michael Jackson in 1993. This recitation is used exclusively as the basis for the 22 minute Jackosan.
The Jacko in John Oswald's chronophotic plasma image Sketches for Jacko Lantern 2 (which he calls 'an electron drawing') is indeed the famous singer, notorious romantic, and face shifter, currently on trial by the American justice system, but already either condemned or sanctified by everyone else. He is represented in Oswald's ever-changing image by his teen and recent visages, combined with his similarly altered and now-almost-equally-disparaged sister, as well as several other iconic faces which may have served as models for the transformation.
This hydra construct is mounted on a similarly amorphous body combines photographed, painted and sculpted-marble elements, including references to the iconography of the impaled Saint Sebastian, Michelangelo's David as well as his Dying Slave, and the Venus deMilo.
The precursor to Jacko Lantern is Janéad O'Jakriel, another chronophotic which was created for a plasma screen, and first shown at the Hayward Gallery in London England as part of Sonic Boom in 2001. Janéad consists of a gradual transformation of a 1932 photo of a nude man by George Platt-Lynes into a remarkably similar pose by Janet Jackson for a 1993 publicity photo, combined with a filigree of the features of various British rock stars.
But the Janet/Michael resemblances, their transformational appearances, and connections to historic imagery, as well as the graphic quality of Oswald's technique of morphing through varying the transparency of superimposed images, naturally led to further exploration of this hermaphroditic figure. Sketches for Jacko Lantern 2 is an iteration of a work-in-progress.
Oswald's use of the the gender-bending aspect of the Jacko image goes back 15 years to the cover of the first plunderphonic CD, which features MJ transformed into a white woman, a picture that Michael thought was really funny.
Susanna Hood photographed by John Oswald scratching her own voice on a dubplate
Spinvolver brings to the stage aspects of the recorded medium of
plunderphonics through a solo performer who utilizes various
technology, including telephonics, turntablism, and other audio media
assisted by an offstage technical Wizard of Oswald who feeds the
performer verbal lines and modular performance cues from a matrix (a
growing catalog of performance routines which are usually initiated by
a degree of solicited audience response). In effect the performer is a
surrogate to the unseen, offstage operator who during the proceedings
gradually relinquishes the role of Svengali to allow the performer
greater autonomy. The performer is kinetic, vocal, and the entire
visual focus - there is no video component.
Spinvolver is part lecture, part opera, part dance jockey set, part
cinema for the ears.
This solo dance opera lecture debuted in 2002 in Berlin, toured
various capitols of Europe. Spinvolver is currently about 45 minutes
After the very successful, held-over showing of the chronophotic
image instandstillnessence at the Edward Day Gallery in Toronto this
fall, the following showing and events are scheduled for the first
half of 2005 :
- the Kwanyin Society have occasional showings of the arc of
apparitions (the DVD forerunner to instandstillnessence) in Beijing.
- Espace F in Matane in the Gaspé in Quebec from February 24th
(vernisage with the artist present) to April 4th, will show, on
opposing walls, 2 screens, stands and sence.
- from April 6th (vernisage and talk/tour with the artist present) to
August 14th the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion at the Musée des beaux-arts de
Montréal will be devoted to presenting 3 integrated screens of the
work, similar to the presentation at the Ed Day. Read more ...
- concurrent to the Musée show the Pierre François Oullette Gallery in Montreal will show crowd of souls, the photo image precursor to the group chronophotics, Sketches for Jacko Lantern 2 (the first plasma chronophotic), and arc of apparitions (the first of the crowd chronophotics) along with related images by the artist.
- opening May 26th, the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City will
show 5 integrated screens as withinstandstillnessence, in a joint
show with Michael Snow.
- on Tuesday May 10th at 7PM will show instandstillness as an event
feature-length screening to open Representing Toronto at the Innis
Town Hall Cinema (in Toronto). This will be a repeat of the premiere
of this integrated 2 screen version with the sound track whisperfield
added which occurred at the same venue during the Images Festival
GRAYFOLDED 2 cd reissued by fony ...
(August 11, 2004 / TORONTO) Oswald's fony label has decided to reissue the critically and popularly acclaimed 2cd Grateful Dead plunderphonic GRAYFOLDED. Out of print since June 2000, the 2004 edition (tenth year anniversary) features exclusive background info and interviews with Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Robert Hunter plus 2 "time maps" which chart the source Dark Stars used and a 10,000 word essay by musicologist Rob Bowman. Gary Lambert, editor of the Grateful Dead Almanac said : "The decade-leaping GRAYFOLDED is an astonishingly accurate evocation of that sublime, hallucinatory 'unstuck in time' feeling one gets at a really good Grateful Dead show."
"This double CD, lasting almost two blissful hours, has been rightly acclaimed as the ultimate Dark Star, the one you always hoped the Dead would one day get around to playing."
- The London Daily Telegraph
"GRAYFOLDED is literally a hundred or so great nights rolled into one extraordinary, extended high... two Cds' worth of gorgeous sonic orgami."
- Rolling Stone, best of the year list
"... An extended time-warped psychedelic jam that is meticulously hallucinatory."
- New York Times, top 10 of the year
"Even casual Dead fans will be floored by this astonishing new project. Absolutely brilliant."
- Toronto Sun, album of the decade
"On GRAYFOLDED (fony) plunderphonics composer John Oswald's 1995 double disc length 'cover' of The Grateful Dead's most spacebound vehicle plundered and spliced together more than four decades of live Dead versions into one definitive, maximalist version. Oswald created orchestras of timewarped Jerry Garcias loosing waterfalls of of lunar notes and feedback patterns that bled into slow smears of vocals and supernaturally compacted jams. The first - straighter - part, "Transitive Axis", relies mostly on overlap techniques, which permit Oswald to fly in various soundboard recordings and patch particularly zoned solos into huge vertically stacked harmonies. [...] Part two, "Mirror Ashes", is considerably more dosed, with swarms of time-altered sound effectively working as huge brackets enveloping ever more compacted takes. It's a fantastically psychedelic listen ..."
- The WIRE (#261 November 2005) from "60 cover versions that rattle the state of song"
John Oswald receives 2004 Governor General's Award for Media Arts
(March 10, 2004 / OTTAWA) On Wednesday, at a ceremony administered by Her Excellency the Governor General Adrianne Clarkson at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Canada's national capitol, John Oswald was made a Governor General's Laureate. This is the highest honour this country can bestow on an artist.
When choosing Oswald the jury stated:
"John Oswald has created an art - and vocabulary - of his own in his exceptional and innovative work as a sound artist, image alchemist, composer and media artist... Oswald's art, while often playful, is a serious examination of basic elements. His influence on an entire generation of artists and his international reputation attest to his free-ranging spirit of innovation and exploration."
"It is fortunate that the Governor General should recognize achievements in the 'media arts.' For it is only a term as open-ended in its compass as 'media' that could possibly serve to embrace the wildly multifarious yet utterly particular art of John Oswald. 'Media' is plural, denoting more than one medium. And a medium, in its most basic sense, is a means, any means, of effecting or conveying something, anything. Medium is also a poetically apt word to invoke in the case of John Oswald, as it is directly derived from the Latin word meaning 'the one in the middle.' Oswald throws himself into the middle, or, more correctly, many, many middles."
arc of apparitions & instandstillness
instandstillness (77 minutes, premiered April 18th, 2004 at the Images International Film and Video Festival in Toronto)
(September 1, 2004 / TORONTO) This endless cinematic spectacle features hundreds of Torontonians participating in a literally skin-deep portrayal of a ghostly crowd which goes nowhere and does nothing but is nonetheless always gradually becoming constantly different. Standstill is the third of a series of chronophotic moving stills (Janéad O'Jakriel/Jacko Lantern, the Arc of Apparitions) in which Oswald perfectly blurs the properties and aesthetics of photography, movies, and televisualisation in a counter-Koyaanisqatsi universe.
In 1999 internationally-renowned Canadian composer John Oswald began photographing people. In 2001 he exhibited, in Toronto, Souls, a large photo mural consisting of over 100 of his friends and acquaintances, each photographed individually, gathered into a collaged crowd. In 2002 he began working on Census, amassing a much larger database of strangers and acquaintances for several video-projected images in which the relatively transparency of each individual in relation to the crowd changes very slowly over time. The first manifestation of this is the multifaceted Arc of Apparitions, (starring eighty residents of Ville de Quebec) published on DVD by OHMavatar ).
The revised instandstillnessence will be shown with other works by Oswald continuously at the Edward Day Gallery in Toronto from September 11th (opening 2-5PM) to October 4th.
( February 17, 2005 / TORONTO ) John Oswald has been awarded for "Best solo exhibition in a private gallery" at the Toronto Untitled Art Awards for "instandstillnessence" at the Edward Day Gallery. The award ceremony was held at the Steamwhistle Brewery
Roundhouse on Wednesday February 16th, 2005.
Cantaloupe Music releases Oswald Remix
(October 11, 2004 / NEW YORK) Cantaloupe Music has just released Messiah ReMix,
a collection of takes on George Frideric Handel's classic oratorio, by
contemporary plunderphonicticians, including John Oswald, who created
a new piece, Partial, based on the Messiah overture, for this release.
Oswald recommends that the best way to hear the album is to play
Partial (track 11) first followed by track 1, and so on. Partial was
meant to be the first track and Oswald doesn't think it works as well
at the end.