York alumnus accorded governor general honours


Above: John Oswald’s Crowd of Souls, 2001, choreographed by York dance professor Holly Small. 

York Fine Arts alumnus John Oswald is one of seven laureates of the fifth annual Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts, presented at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on March 10 and recognized in the House of Commons on March 11.

These awards are Canada’s foremost distinctions for artists who have created an outstanding body of work and have made a significant, long-term contribution to the development of the visual or media arts. In addition to a $15,000 prize, each of this year’s laureates received an original artwork created by Nova Scotia ceramic artist Walter Ostrom, winner of the 2003 Saidye Bronfman Award.

Right: John Oswald

John Oswald (BFA ‘77) took York’s first self-designed interdisciplinary degree in Fine Arts (now called Fine Arts Cultural Studies). The governor general’s news release about the awards provides further details about the York alumnus, as follows.

John Oswald is a multi-disciplinary artist. A media/sound artist, composer, performance and dance artist, everything is material for his art. He coined the term “plunderphonics” in the late 80s to describe his plundering, or appropriating, well-known music and images and manipulating them in original ways. Oswald has an international reputation as a leading contemporary composer. The Globe and Mail called his most recent work, Aparanthesi, a “mystical experience”. He premiered the solo dance opera Spinvolver (with Susanna Hood) in Berlin in 2003. Oswald explores his electroacoustic creativity as director of research at Toronto’s Mystery Lab, where he lives.

Right: Oswald’s Osciplex, 1999

The awards jury citation reads: “John Oswald has created an art – and – of his own in his exceptional and innovative work as sound artist, image alchemist, composer and media artist. He is a master of extended-time morphing and a digitally-adept deconstructionist of sound and music. He is a prolific plunderer of all that’s available in modern culture. 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.”

The National Gallery of Canada is presenting an exhibition celebrating the award winners, which opened March 12 and runs to May 1.