Artist: Matthew Ostrowski
Condensed Biography: a composer and performer of electronic music
Location: Brooklyn, US
“ …“Today’s avant-garde is the world of science”: I believe that it is not, and that the entire idea of granting avant-garde status to scientific research is a travesty. “Avant-garde” is not the same as “à la mode.” The critical question facing artists today is not how one integrates the language and strategies of science in one’s work, but how to intelligently navigate through the reified worldview that is implied when artists avail themselves of the techniques scientific approaches have made available.
The notion of an artistic avant-garde is usually associated with the development of a new ideology, a new approach to thinking about the relationship between individuals, art, culture, and society. However advanced any new discoveries in the scientific field may be, they remain very much part of an older ideology: that of the continual increase of human sovereignty over all aspects of nature (including other humans), the reduction of all materials and phenomena to means rather than ends, and the transformation of a world full of unique and irreproducible events into fungible data. The penetration of this vocabulary of instrumentality into our ideas of perception, emotion, and speech—i.e., what it means to be human—is not an intellectual expansion into uncharted territory, but rather a passive acquiescence to and internalization of the managed world and the power systems that constitute it.
A more pressing question might be: given that the art world—desperately attempting to remain a relevant commodity in an environment where the non-quantifiable is more and more viewed as inappropriate conversation at the grownups’ table—has thrown in its lot with cultural forces of domination and control, how are artists to come to terms with that situation in their process and praxis?
Thus I find myself embattled in the paradox of using these tools and methods of domination to create experiences that do not participate in this economy of power and control: experiences that exist as ends, rather than experiences that serve as means. Singular moments in time that have their own unique kind of knowledge and being latent within them, a copy of nothing but itself, useless as a subject of analysis. In the moment of performance, it is my task to raise that sonic material from the dead, and extricate it from the means, procedures, and language of analysis, vivisection, and domination from the work I am attempting to create.
The only means I have available for this endeavor is my body. It is through the body, taking action in a specific and irreproducible moment in time, location in space, and before an audience of equally specific individuals that this dead material can be changed from quantities into qualities, from the byproduct of an analytical procedure into something that has, like us, a unique, perfect, and disposable life. ”
PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, Volume 34, January 2012 (PAJ 100), MIT Press, pp.75-76
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