Visionary Currents: Android Jones
The following essay is by Reality Sandwich visionary art editor, Neşe Lisa Şenol:
Android Jones is at the forefront of the visionary art movement, a wave of artists who emphasize creativity as the foundation of consciousness and an agent of social change.
The rise of visionary art is a landmark event in the history of aesthetics and philosophy. It offers an alternative to the “postmodern” thinking that still preoccupies many scholars of the arts and humanities, despite a search for more practical alternatives.
In the conventional version of art history, postmodernism emerged as a reaction to modernism’s fascination with objective rationality, grand narratives, and universal principles. In place of these, postmodernism turned to cultural relativity and institutional critique. It opened the door for novel and minority perspectives, but truth became relative, and common foundations slipped away.
Visionary art is an alternative to the outdated notion of a secular, ironic postmodernism that still captivates the academic art world. “Performatism,” a word coined by German scholar Raoul Eshelman in his book “Performatism, or the End of Postmodernism,” provides an alternative frame. In contrast to critiques and fractures, performative works create their own lineages and perspectives. Instead of disrupting the existing world, they create new worlds and ways of seeing: performances in and of context.
Visionary art is a performative approach to the conscious construction of a sustainable, aesthetically inspired worldview. In opposition to secular irony, the art of Android Jones is spiritual, optimistic, and performative—which is to say it aims to do something, to introduce new symbolic frames and create ritualistic spaces wherein personal and collective identities can be consciously shaped and refashioned.
Android's art is based on a principle of creative exploration of potential--possible worlds, ways of knowing, states of being, forms of communication and communion--without searching for a final resting point. Creative decisions are seen as probes for further possibilities, rather than as all-consuming limitations that close possibilities down. He aims to impact the world through his creative practices by inspiring, empowering, and increasing the bandwidth of human potential.
As a digital alchemist, Android builds on the technical developments of past centuries in art history while pushing the boundaries of the imagination with new technologies and media forms. The name “Android” is a reflection of this interest in blending new technologies with historical and organic processes towards the development of radically new experiential possibilities. But like much of his work, the name has significance on multidimensional registers. As he expressed to the Do Lab, “It’s taken on many meanings over the years.... [A] lot of it dates back to the first time I had my mind blown.... I underwent major brain surgery at eleven years old, and without the precision of CAT scans and the technical advances in modern neurosurgery, we would not be having this conversation. I am literally a product of technology.... [T]he half-man, half-machine metaphor became a fitting reminder of my mechanical debt.”
Rather than envisioning a rigid divide between an artist and his tools, Android views any technological development as an extension of one's own consciousness (or nervous system, in the words of the media theorist Marshall McLuhan). Just as new fields of potential experience open up with the biological evolution of an eye or the invention of a lightbulb, so do new artistic tools allow for novel methods and creative forms that were never previously possible.
Although Android Jones began his artistic career with the study of academic portraiture and fine art using charcoal graphite and paintbrushes, he gradually transitioned to digital media. He studied computer animation at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL, and subsequently developed a reputation as a film and video concept artist. After an internship at George Lucas's "Industrial Light & Magic," he worked as the only North American concept artist for the Japanese gaming company Nintendo and became creative director for the entertainment development company Massive Black Inc., which he founded.
But Android ultimately had artistic ambitions that exceeded the opportunities available in the entertainment industry. He began developing latent possibilities within software programs such as Corel Painter, Photoshop, ZBrush, and Alchemy, discovering new combinations and uses for tools that exceeded the original intentions of their programmers. These digital technologies allow for a high level of complexity that would never be possible in a comparable timeframe through a traditional medium. Like a world traveler who learns to think in a foreign language, Android learns to think through the tools that he constellates and remixes in his studio: “After years of use, when the tools start becoming second nature—they have a direct effect on the way that I imagine and my imagination itself. So now I can imagine with these tools.”
Android's art is constantly evolving as he explores new technologies, programs, patches, and digital paintbrushes. He describes the radical nature of new technological advancements that have only opened up in recent years with the development of computer software: “I [can do things like] paint with photographs and all these [other] ways of being creative that I wasn’t even aware of when I was growing up.” Intuitively assembling a spice collection of digital ingredients, he explores alchemical combinations that surpass the reach of any given tool when taken alone: “It’s just about juxtaposition, the strategic combining of different elements. It’s about making a number of decisions and combining things in the right way. It’s...like a puzzle, or a chamber lock, where there are four or five parts that need to be put together in the right way in order to create something really powerful.”
Android's style arose out of a fascination with dreams, altered states of consciousness, and esotericism. His art expresses the inexpressible, that which cannot be accessed via language or linear thought processes. In an interview with Adam Smith of Photoshop Daily, he expressed that "There are…many mysteries present in our world, some hidden [and] other undiscovered. These two subjects (surrealism and esotericism) come out naturally in my work because they're often in my consciousness. Images are how I choose to communicate and the paintings become a visual conversation that helps raise my awareness."
Psychedelics and entheogens like ayahuasca have been significant among these influences. As scholar Richard Doyle explains in his recent book “Darwin's Pharmacy,” one function of psychedelics is to alert us to our absolute interrelation with our environments and communities, dissolving egoic barriers and the illusion of individuality and self-sufficiency. Android's art is both borne from this environmental sensitivity and, simultaneously, serves as a psychedelic opening to such awareness for those who experience it.
Android is highly conscious of the ways that his environment influences his work, from the dynamic energy surrounding groups at festivals where he live paints to the musical vibrations traversing the air: “My favorite is the combination of...electronic and digital music in completely natural environments, such as forests and deserts.... The juxtaposition between the artificially produced sounds and the raw molecular resolution of natural reality can create a very specific elegance. The more creative the working environment the more creative the work becomes.”
As an artist, Android is a focal point within this interpenetrating nexus of influence. Concentrating and manipulating energies that radiate beyond his individual existence, his art interfaces with--and contributes to--the organizational complexity of the evolving universe: “We’re all part of something together. There is no separateness.... When it comes to alchemy it is about a fundamental integration and incorporation of everything as one larger machine.” In an interview with Meghan Hope LeClair, he explains that "I don’t take credit for the art that comes through--not that it’s beyond what one human can do but because for me it’s a distillation and an abstraction of reality that happens when the artist allows it to happen. It’s taking the infinite molecular density of everything around me--and this incredible mystery that cannot be understood--distilling it and abstracting it into a way of communicating with other people. So these tools allow me to communicate more, they allow me to communicate it faster and they allow me to communicate it in a way that I had never done before.”
With his tools and approaches ever evolving, Android's art could hardly be contained to three dimensions: “It was only later in life, as I grew older, that I learned maybe I am the most direct reflection of my art; as an artist, your art is your life, and your life is your art. If I am driving around in traffic, traffic is a dance. I’m interacting with everything all the time and I can try to squeeze or rush and get ahead of someone else, but the more I put myself in a context of us all being in this thing together—and not just an isolated individual—the richer and deeper the dance and that interaction gets.” Rather than gallery art with a limited audience, he is increasingly focusing on contributing to profound developments in the visionary communities, taking part in an evolution of consciousness and awareness that has the potential to reverberate the world over: “I feel that the older I get, the more I want to step into a place of a stewardship of creative consciousness; to be able to curate and create the experiences that I have found especially valuable as well as to combine, reflect and add to them so people can have an exponentially more heightened experience. We’re all building something together.”
In Android's live art performances, including the acclaimed Phadroid dance performances with wife Phaedra Ana, he incorporates elements of chance and improvisation, inviting synchronicities that surprise audience and artist alike and allow for unscripted moments of beauty to shine through. After years performing at underground trance festivals, Phadroid recently captivated mainstream attention between performances by Alicia Keys and Katy Perry at an event in Hollywood. This is one development in a trend of increasing attention, including live painting on the Sydney Opera House in Australia—an event that was televised and viewed by millions.
Android recently developed his first "Digital Art Road Tour" with "The Night Rainbow," a mobile digital art studio built from a converted, decommissioned military box truck equipped with an electrical generator, a sound system, and high-powered projectors. Android Jones and his crew--which included David Block of the Human Experience, George Atherton, Jessica Perlstein, and a small team of revolutionary digital media artists--toured the west coast of the United States, setting up a live digital art/sound stage as well as installations at each venue or festival. Between venues, they turned their projectors onto the surfaces of major sites like Los Angeles and San Francisco in "guerrilla renegade projections," transforming dark walls into illuminated murals. Android Jones worked on one continuous work of art during this time--the "Night Rainbow series"--which can be viewed as an integral whole or as individual pieces.
As “experience designer,” Android has contributed to films, games, and to building communities through www.conceptart.org and www.dreamcatcher.net, and his interactive installations have enchanted tens of thousands of participants at events like Boom and Burning Man, where he has creating large-scale environments and stages that help are in service to the creative evolution of our species: “What it turned out to be in the end wasn’t just a stage, it was a piece of technology. The whole thing—with a Funktion-One sound system, and the lights, and the décor and the projections—was all about creating this ego-dissolving machine. That experience was one of the first times that I was able to really feel the art of not only creating an image, but creating an experience for people. It’s a whole other level of connectedness.”
Viewing the digital domain as a medium of energy and light that expands the nature of reality, Android's art encourages others to explore the potential interfaces of mind and machine in this time of accelerating change and increasing novelty. To this end, Android's art serves two related functions: it bears witness to realities accessible through heightened states of consciousness, and it also engenders heightened awareness through the processes of creation and audience interaction. Digital art becomes a tool for navigating reality and human awareness, and Android's art invites others to join the advancing evolution of consciousness by speaking to the artist in everyone.
Check out the new print from Android Jones, "Monarch Dragon," now available from Evolver.net.