this is a temporary site for a number of John Oswald's site-specific and visual projects.                                                please excuse our messiness


consider also visiting:

John Oswald

June 27th 2013:
As part of ArtSpin, a monthly summer event, hundreds of cyclists arrived at a dead end street in Liberty Village in Toronto to witness this 15 minute performance by a crowd of nude perambulists.
Crowd Passage was conceived and directed by John Oswald. Imbedded in the audience was the Element Choir, conducted by Christine Duncan.

see video

see post performance Q&A

art and drinks

2011—12 : Art and Drinks was an experiment in combining a fully-licenced bar with a multi-screen and projection video art gallery. 

more info here and here or here



John Oswald

fall 2010: a 5-hour series of events by John Oswald at the Carlu in Toronto


John Oswald's exhibition of self-illuminated images was shown at the Ed Day Gallery (952 Queen West Toronto)in May and June of 2010.

All the images in this exhibition, with one exception, generate their own light, but are otherwise difficult to classify, some being more like photographs and others are more cinematic ...

John Oswald
The world's smallest IMAX presentation

John Oswald
The ten-metre fish that lives at Yonge and Dundas

John Oswald
Scroll demands a very different kind of reading

John Oswald
Ground is a suspenseful moving landscape

John Oswald
Veilings is an ever-changing altar tryptich

John Oswald
rePlexure is a crystal-clear phonographic disc

John Oswald

a ghostly projection from the multi-Dora-nominated stage production Radiant



John Oswlad's 'eyeline' 2010

the first family portrait in the Eyeline series


more images : illuminated


John Oswald's 'illuminated' 2010

"...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

Radiant (Variant)

Radiant (Varaint)

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 2009.

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.

[Paula Citron, Globe and Mail April 11th, 2009]

Radiant (Varaint)

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 gardener's dinner.

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.

| click here to see a larger view of Frank's Last Turn |


plunderphonics EP

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

ROM Crystal
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.

| Click Here to view a video Overview of A Time To Hear For Here |

| Download a daily schedule in pdf format for A Time To Hear for Here|

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 .

| Click Here to view The making of Qui - a short video |

Slow looking webcast ...

chronophotic installation instandstillnessence by John Oswald (ca.2004)
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, OHM/Avatar 2003: out-of-print, but there may be still free copies available at Suspect Video in Toronto), but mLab web developer Jim Paterson has been working on a technique for demonstrating the effect on the web, shown here . 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)
chronophotograph by Etienne-Jules Marey (ca. 1882)

| click here to see chronophotic |

John Oswald thanks the Canada Council for the Arts and the Chalmers Fund of the Ontario Arts Council for their support of chronophotics development.


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.

| Click here to play >>> JACKOSCAN.   |

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.

| wikopedia entry on plunderphonics |



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 Ed Day show was nominated as Best Exhibition by a Private Gallery in 2004 for The Toronto Untitled Art Awards and John Oswald has been nominated 'Artist of the Year'. (update : instandstillnessence won first prize ! )

- 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.

- 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 last year.

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) was published on DVD by OHMavatar).

The revised instandstillnessence was shown with other works by Oswald continuously at the Edward Day Gallery in Toronto from September 11th (opening 2-5PM) to October 4th, 2004.

| Open instandstillnessence postcard...   |

| Oswald with 'instandstillnessence' projection...   |

| Installation view at Edward Day Gallery ...   |

| Oswald performing at Edward Day Gallery...   |

| NOW Magazine Review of 'instandstillnessence' ...   |

| PETER GODDARD /TORONTO STAR Review of 'instandstillnessence' ...   |

( 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.

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