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 were communicating 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 receivers, each one tapping out its binary code.

Exhibition Support

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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 Charles L. Touhey Foundation, Inc.