Word: Ostranenie

The coolest words out there didn’t come from America.

остранение – ostraenie noun \ ‘os-tra-“nen-E \

It’s a fancy word for “defamiliarization”. Artists stole it from Russia to describe the act of presenting something common to an audience in an unfamiliar way. This term can apply to written art as well as visual.

As artists, how do we pursue the idea of defamiliarization? Pursuit of understanding is in our nature, so what draws us to an idea or object? Largely, we take on something we personally connect with, the familiar bit. Then we take it somewhere unexpected.

A balloon is a simple child’s toy. What else is it? A tool used in angioplasty. A stress reliever. A weapon. By defamiliarizing an object, an idea, an emotion, we deconstruct it. We expose and rearrange its layers, and reassemble them in ways beautiful, sublime, and sometimes shocking.

Why? Curiosity, yes. Because we can, yes. But there is more to it. We seek to broaden the understanding, the awareness, people have of the subject we portray. We are altering perception by forcing the audience to slow down, by placing obstacles in the way of comprehension. By presenting things in an unfamiliar manner, we are forcing those who observe our work to sharpen their awareness.

The ways we pursue остранение vary, and because of this we, as artists, are able to inject an endless supply of new creation to this world so often stuck in a painfully slow evolution.


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