Summerland: A Sound Installation by Matthew Ostrowski

September 19, 2020–January 3, 2021

During the 1840s, the world of scientific invention and the spirit world overlapped. Summerland, a sound installation by artist Matthew Ostrowski creates imagined dialogues between these two worlds and explores the “elusive promise of communication.”

When Samuel F. B. Morse’s telegraph became commercially available in 1844, it changed the nature of communication. By using electromagnetic impulses that could be sent and received over a single wire, the telegraph transmitted information across thousands of miles almost instantaneously. It conflated time and space in a nearly unimaginable way. Some thought it was magic.

Four years later, Maggie and Kate Fox, two sisters in upstate New York, created a series of rapping sounds to fool others into believing they could communicate with spirits. Their undisclosed hoax soon captivated others and before long a growing interest in spiritualism brought the promise of communication with departed loved ones.

Summerland, as Ostrowski comments, is a séance—a telegraphically audible dialogue between Morse and Kate Fox—that is communicated through a series of telegraph sounders, each one tapping out its binary code.

A New York City native, Matthew Ostrowski is a composer, performer, and installation artist. Using digital tools and formalist techniques to engage with quotidian materials -- sonic, physical, and cultural -- Ostrowski explores the liminal space between the virtual and phenomenological worlds. Engaged with tropes of interruption and flux, his works function as environments in a constant state of change, exploring the process of consciousness in its constant state of collision with the world. His work includes live digital solo and ensemble improvisation, multichannel fixed-media electronic compositions, and algorithmically-generated installation pieces for video, multichannel sound, and robotically-controlled objects.

Educated at Oberlin College, where he studied history and electronic music, and at the Institute of Sonology in The Hague, he presently works as a freelance developer of interactive technology, teaches at New York University, and is an Artist Mentor for the Sound Art master's degree program at Columbia University.


Exhibition Support

Program and exhibition support is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Season exhibition and program support is provided by Phoebe Powell Bender, Mr. and Mrs. George R. Hearst III, Charles M. Liddle III, Lois and David Swawite, and the Carl E. Touhey Foundation, Inc.