John Oswald

John Oswald is a Canadian composer, media artist, director and designer, with a side history as an improviser on the alto sax and in dance. He is perhaps best know as the creator of the music genre Plunderphonics, an appropriative form of recording studio creation which he began to develop in the late sixties. Improvisation became a focal interest in the seventies.

The 1980-95 period featured his most concentrated output of Plunderphonic compositions, including commissions from major record labels and pop stars. Meanwhile, in 1990 he began to compose scores for performing musicians, beginning with several commissions from the Kronos Quartet. Many of these scores were of the Rascali Klepitoire genre, another self-coined term referring to the recomposition of works from the classical repertoire.

Also, in the mid-nineties he began to apply many years of design practice to specific visual phenomena, often investigating opportunities to bridge traditional still genres such as photography with the time-based realms of cinema, video and generative images. In particular he developed the slow art form Chronophotics, and has particularly focused on creating ephemeral crowds of people in projections and illuminated displays with the ongoing series Stillnessence.

Throughout these decades he has maintained an active role in performance in many disciplines.

Oswald is a Governor General Award Media Arts Laureate, Ars Electronica Digital Musics and Untitled Arts Award winner, and an inductee into the CBC Alternative Walk of Fame, as well as being nominated to third place in a list of the most internationally influential Canadian musicians, tied with Celine Dion.
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Artist Code: 857



1998, 11:15 minutes, colour, english/french

Critical Writing

Made You Look: While feast of moving imagery is many things, it's...
by Peter Goddard. The Toronto Star, Apr. 3, 2008.
Artsit Lisa Steele honoured for lifetime achievement
by Staff Staff. The Globe and Mail, 2005.
Video 2005
by Tom Sherman. Canadian Art, Spring 2005, v. 22, no. 1.
Not coming to the multiplex: Toronto's Images Festival features...
by Liam Lacey. The Globe and Mail, Apr. 15, 2004.
Videos Ante up the Fear Factor: This year's video-art feast marks...
by Catherine Osborne. The National Post, Apr. 10, 2004.
Bare Essentials: John Oswald's Bodies Fascinate
by Catherine Farquharson. NOW, Sept. 2004, v. 24, no. 4.
Tranz<->Tech Toronto International Media Art Biennal 2003
by Dara Gellman. Toronto: Vtape, 2003.