Visionary artist Android Jones shared his perspectives on art, politics, and the future of humanity with NuMundo founder David Casey. NuMundo is a portal to connect you to transformational travel experiences that lead you closer to your purpose and potential as a human being on this earth. The following is a transcript of the interview. Android is contributing signed art piece as a reward in NuMundo’s launch campaign, which you can find more about here – http://igg.me/at/numundo/.
How do you think art can be used as a tool for social or political change?
Andrew: I think there is no single answer to this. Art can be as varied as the types of change that one is trying to elicit or create. The power that I’ve found is that art has an amazing ability to unify people, and that’s often the goal of many artists and many of the pieces that I make. Art can create an emotion, a feeling, an experience within the viewer that transcends cultures, borders, and any of the lines or boundaries that we impose onto each other.It helps people who might be in separate places in the world, feeling isolated, to feel connected. It gives them something to focus their energy on. In my practice and in what I’ve learned about art and consciousness, I find that art is one of the most powerful and one of the most under-appreciated ways of really getting inside of somebody’s world, planting a seed there and inspiring a certain type of curiosity. If you can take that curiosity and foster inspiration, and catalyze that inspiration into enthusiasm (inspiration + action), then it can be used in a way to help motivate people.
The political and social issues that we’re dealing with are so complicated and so multidimensional. Art is one of the best mediums that we have to not only convey how an individual artist is feeling about something, but to tap into the energetic zeitgeist of what’s going on. As we search through social media, we’re looking to learn new things, but we’re also looking for a certain amount of confirmation. For example, when the riots were happening in Egypt around 2003, I created a piece called Power to the Pyramid.
At the time I was living in Oakland. In the digital age, we have all this streaming media and a proliferation of cameras and recording devices. I have been a big fan of history and watching documentaries, but on this day I was in my studio watching Al-Jazeera, absolutely glued to the livestream with what was happening from moment to moment. It was one of those times in my life where history wasn’t this passive preamble that I had been reading about – it was occurring right in front of my eyes. I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be from this conflict that I was watching, and I could observe the struggle, just watching the tens of thousands of people and their energy. Being in my safe and secure little California artist warehouse, there’s a part of me that felt so removed from what was happening, but in my heart I felt so connected to the plight of what these people were going through, seeing their sacrifice. It was one of the first times I’d really seen humanity make a stand against an oppressor. People were putting their entire lives on the lines for what they believed in.
As an artist living thousands of miles away, I was so inspired by seeing this momentum of humanity that I created this piece of art (Power to the Pyramid). We can all feel very powerless when we see things unfolding thousands of miles away that we don’t have the ability to impact. I was motivated to make a piece of art because I wanted these people to know that thousands of miles away there was a person who saw them and saw what they were doing. Through the extension of my creative energy, even just for the sake of the gesture, I wanted them to know there was someone who supported them and wanted to help. I don’t think it was necessarily about raising awareness, I just wanted to vindicate and validate the sacrifice they were making, because they were making a sacrifice for all of humanity. That was a major fork in the road. There was this feeling that if they weren’t able to get Mubarak out, if thousands of people sitting and meditating and praying towards a goal were defeated, it would have been a much more grim world. At the time I wasn’t thinking of it, but in the moment [of creation] I wanted them to know that there was someone who cared about what they were doing. And looking back for posterity’s sake, [it was] also a moment of culturally documenting something that was really important and powerful that happened within the generation of my lifetime.
I notice the presence of darker and more obscure political undertones in some of your art, sometimes contrasted with lighter tones and sometimes not. I’d love for you to elaborate on the significance on some of those pieces, like Love is a Riot, or Droid, or other ones that come up.
As a digital artist, there is an infinite palate of colors I can choose from when planning out a piece. On the surface I’m painting with colors and shapes, but behind that, I’m painting with emotions. I’m trying to create an experience, and ideally I want to elicit the most powerful human emotion I can when the viewer sees this combination of lines and shapes and colors together. If I’m trying to create something beautiful and I want the beauty to stand out, [it] will stand out the most powerfully when set against darkness. In order for all the emotions to come through and to be respectful of each one, adding an element of darkness makes both symbols stand out more prominently. We’re living in the Kali Yuga right now – this is the age of darkness, the dark ages of mankind from [one] perspective.
I’ve found that in some of the New Age overwhelming propaganda, there’s a certain emphasis on focusing solely on the light. I think that’s incredibly dangerous, because without an awareness of the contrast of these two forces, how can we hope to overcome them? There’s a saying: if you know yourself, you’ll win half the battles but you’ll lose the other half. You have to know yourself and you also have to know your opponent, what you’re up against, if you really want to have a cohesive understanding of the situation that we’re in and what’s at stake. I think it’s important to make art that is challenging, that is uncomfortable to people. I would say on the whole, I make much more uplifting art. If I looked at my art over the course of the last 20 to 25 years, there has definitely been a momentum towards the light. A lot of the art I used to make had an unconscious darkness that was coming out spontaneously. There wasn’t an intention behind the darkness – the darkness was probably using me more than I was using it. I’ve hoped that over the years I’ve transitioned to a point where I’m able to be in more control and to have a tighter reign over the intentionality of the work that I create, and use darkness for a purpose. If you’re not using darkness for a purpose, then darkness might be using you for its own purpose.
For the Love is a Riot, [it was] a similar situation [to Power to the Pyramid]. I was watching the riots in Turkey unfold. A lot of [my] pieces are generated in the moment. The emotion that I’m receiving through the observation of these occurrences is so powerful. I’m not much for words, I don’t write down blogs, [and] I don’t really keep a verbal or written journal. Art is really the means that I can communicate to the best of my ability. I felt that there was something I had a need to express. I was looking at a lot of the footage, especially drone and aerial footage, and the incredible photographs that were coming out.
When I’m making a piece of art, I spend a good deal of time gathering my reference material, trying to do my due diligence and my research. In these situations where there are riots, man against man, oppressor against oppressed, villain against victims, the subject of [the] conflict is really overwhelming. This one group gathers together, and these police state gestapo storm troopers start gathering on the other side. Social media gives us the perspective of allowing us to see things. We don’t need to talk about the obfuscation of the mainstream media. Just looking at a photo – a photo has a hard time lying. Regardless of what kind of spin [the media] puts on things, when you look at the footage of what’s actually unfolding, there’s a certain amount of truth to what’s happening in the moment. You see these scenes of massive groups of people locked in one-on-one conflict. The message that I was trying to get across in that particular piece was coming from a more removed perspective, a zoomed out perspective. Obviously we see a lot of physical one-on-one human conflict happening on an individual’s level, but what’s happening on a larger level? What’s the greater issue here? Sometimes I’ll try to take a higher perspective of what’s happening. If we can cut through the lower hanging fruit, [we can] see what’s more at the core of these issues. What are the needs these people have, and what are the needs that are being unmet? What are some of the root causes of this conflict?
On an individual level, we’re all just trying to make sense of the world from wherever we are at. If you’re a rioter, you’re trying to make sense of the world and do what you feel is right. If you chose to work with the police department or the military, you’re doing the same thing. Those are people, they’re not the boogey man, they’re just trying to figure out their life, support their families and take care of their tribes. I have a deeper belief that when you look at these physical conflicts, it’s a very complicated issue that deserves more than this really stark bifurcation of light and darkness. There’s lots of different shades of gray. From this higher perspective, I saw this conflict of these two opposing forces together. From the macro, you’ve got two people poised in this violent conflict against each other based off their ideology, beliefs, [and] expressions for freedom. I think there’s a certain amount of truth that a lot of darkness is really created from a deeper causality, what manifests darkness is a lack of love. Look at a lot of the major problems between world leaders, countries, nations, cultures. It’s this inability to really feel love, feel safe, feel the freedom to express love. If I really zoom out beyond the individual stories, I see two groups of people that were fighting, but in a way, from a deeper aspect, they were just really trying to express love – sometimes in a twisted and destructive way. I wanted to see this clashing of energy, the silhouettes of these two groups, make the faces of a male and a female lover. And even though it looks like fire and angst and Molotov cocktails, there’s a deeper issue of people just trying to get the love that they need in their life. And at the same time express the idea of what love is: love is not a smooth, perfect journey through tranquility and ease. Love is conflict, love is strife, love is fighting and all these things – Love is a Riot!
Through technology and really [through] Facebook, I’m able to clearly track the metrics of what humanity responds to when I make a piece of art. The likes and the shares and the comments [make it] really clear to gain traction, at that time I was also studying the metrics of the images of what I was creating that elicited the most reaction. The [images] that ultimately stand out were the ones that create an emotion. Across the board, the ones that create the most amount of emotion and attention were pieces that were political, and in contrast the pieces that I made of couples, of the male and female together. That piece was also an attempt to hybridize these two contrasting elements that people were responding to, and combine them together in one kind of emotional time-bomb. An experiment.
You’ve referenced a pivotal point in history in the Middle East, placing oppressor against the people, and this is a pretty broad question: What kind of future do you see for humans, and what does your new world or more sustainable world look like?
Sometimes I look at it, and I feel it’s almost anyone’s guess of what the world decides it wants to be. And ultimately it will decide exactly what it wants to be. I come from the perspective [that] despite our technology and advances and all the back-patting in the world, there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that we’re in the age of Kali Yuga, an age of darkness, delusion, distraction.
From the Veda, it looks like we’ve got at least 300,000 more years of this before we come to the new Age. It’s a bit depressing, but also gives me a bit more patience. I don’t necessarily expect to see massive changes [in my lifetime]. I would like to, but I won’t be disappointed if I don’t see incredible shifts happen within our lifetimes. This is a much longer story and I’m just a small thread in an infinite magnificent tapestry that’s happening throughout culture. I’m not really sure how it’s going to end up. I can imagine a few things in the shorter term [of] the next few hundred years. There seems to be a pretty overwhelming sickness that’s currently plaguing humanity. People use the metaphor that humanity is asleep, [but] I’d probably argue that humanity is in more of a coma. Sleep you can wake up from, and you go back to sleep [because] you have to sleep. When I look at the actions of what we’re creating right now, I see a lot more of a comatose mass than I do people asleep. A coma is trickier because no one can really wake you up from a coma, you have to wake up on your own. [And] that can be pretty alarming, especially when the coma is something that people become comfortable with. There’s part of me that imagines that the world is kind of like a junkie. It would stand to reason that the road to recovery might be beset by us hitting a rock bottom point first. We may have to really shake off the trappings of the world and a lot of the poisonous and exploitative systems that we have in place that are so powerful and consuming. There may need to be a reset moment for humanity. I wouldn’t say that’s guaranteed, but I wouldn’t rule that out as a form of our first step towards a recovery.
We had a flood recently here in Colorado, a week and a half of being flooded, losing electricity and internet and cellphones. [The way it] brought the community together in the area that I live was amazing – those were two of my favorite weeks in the last couple years. One way or another, our community will find a way to party through the reset phase. I think that’s why we’re creating these communities, so there are things we can salvage. If we get way past that, [and] we already start rebuilding a different world, the future of humanity’s potential that I dream about [is] one I want to tell my kids about… Being an artist gives me a lens into the power that we have as individuals, and when we focus our consciousness, what’s possible. Making a painting is a very self-contained metaphor for that principle of projecting your visions and imaginations onto a canvas and fabricating it out of electricity or pencils or paint strokes. I believe that this world is [being created] by consciousness. Consciousness is a fundamental driver of our reality.
Right now, we have 7 billion people in this world and lot of us are feeling alone, scared and we are fighting with each other. We’re very distracted, and the media and larger circles of power have done a great job at suppressing the ultimate and unlimited potential that humans have. I think that freedom is a human being’s ability to express their unlimited value and their unlimited worth. The power of one free person that has transcended their scarcity and fear is unbelievable. Just imagine what world we would have if we had 7 billion people on this planet living free of fear and their scarcity and their self-limiting beliefs, if we had 7 billion people that truly harnessed the unlimited power of their consciousness to project a reality that was safe, sustainable, beautiful, and peaceful for everyone, the type of paradise that we could create in unity with each other is so far beyond my imagination, I can really only meditate on the abstract idea of it. Ultimately, I think that’s what’s at stake. It’s not, “are we going to blow the world up or not”, that’s a symptom or a consequence. As bad as it gets at any certain point, we could change this entire world overnight. If everyone was exposed to the truth of who were are and what we represent and how powerful each of our individual consciousnesses are, the transformation would happen so fast, it would be blinding.
That is a beautiful dream. That leads into my next question. I want to ask you what you think the value of a platform like NuMundo is. Our vision is to connect travelers looking to discover and develop their own potential and live a more sustainable life to educational farms, ecovillages and indigenous communities, experiments, places that are living a different system, or at least trying to.
It sounds amazing. What you described definitely overlaps with a lot of values and ideas that I have too. Part of my lifestyle for the past ten years (once I got on the festival dragon circuit) – one of my goals and intentions [was] to find a way of using the gifts and skills and talents I had as a vehicle to explore the world. One of my main goals was meeting all these different collectives and communities around the world and just making friends. There’s a lot of research – I called it my apocalyptical house-hunting phase – going to all these different places. Being an artist, the value that I was able to give afforded me an amazing opportunity to enter into these communities with a really beautiful and direct access. I’m also so grateful for such an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement that I’ve gotten through so many of the leaders of the communities that took a chance on inviting me out to their event, festival, or farm under the guise of a performer, when deep down I was just trying to connect with people and make friends and broaden my sphere of community and study how people did things. From organizing their events to their systems, it was an amazing amount of research. There really is an incredible value to that. At the end of the day, the real strength that we have [against] whatever is around the corner, whatever kinds of challenges and struggles this world is going to throw at us, [is] we’re going to be dependent on how strong our community bonds are. I think a lot of these events are testing grounds and incubations for different communities.
[What] I’ve learned at a build at Boom Festival, or trying to organize a camp of 500 people out in the desert, [these] are the kinds of skills I relied upon when all the land I was living on got flooded a couple years ago. My instincts went directly to all the things I learned through trying to survive in harsh conditions and set up a speaker system. It was the same sort of [skill set] implementing a sanitation system [when] the water that was overrunning the farm was also mixed in with the sewage system. I had these skills – this is how I keep everybody from getting sick, and this is where the generator is. It was really beautiful to see all these separate skills that I’d picked up here and there all come together with a purpose. I do hope that’s part of what we’re doing. [With] things like Burning Man, I can feel a certain amount of apocalyptical training summer camp that it offers people.
On the farm [in Colorado], we’ve been working for the past few years building a solar panel system. I work out of a two-story barn, a creative studio I have. The first goal is to take everything in the barn off-grid. Getting all the computers and monitors and power tools and printers and servers powered by the sun. We had chickens here for a certain amount of time. We’re putting energy into a garden, we have a beautifully functioning apple orchard here, we have well water and take some water from the stream.
When I think about permaculture, I think of a couple things. To be honest, there’s a certain disconnect I have with the word permaculture, just because of its nature – permanent and culture. I don’t see anything in nature that’s totally permanent – everything is in a state of change, flux, evolution. It’s only our observation, the limited scope of our own lifetimes, and our ignorance of longer patterns that would make us think that anything is permanent. I mean the land masses aren’t even permanent! If continents and mountains aren’t permanent, then where is our measuring bar for what is permanent? When I hear permaculture, how I filter that word has more to do with responsibility and freedom. Responsibility means being more responsible for ourselves and where our energy comes from, where are resources come from. We can ho-hum and rattle against the chains of the oppressor all day long until we’re blue in the face. I can’t do that authentically, because if I’m still tapping into a power grid and I’m still buying my food from a supermarket, I’m just as much of a slave to the system [as anyone else]. The reason we’re putting our energy into investing into solar panels and growing more food here [is because it’s] the most direct action and the most responsible thing that I can do towards the investment of having the experience of freedom. If you’re not responsible for the energy that you use, then you’re a slave to someone, somewhere down the line. We see that the moves we make and the actions towards sustainability as a way [of being]. The goal of this really isn’t a zero or negative carbon footprint, the goal for me is living and dying as a free man on this planet, if that’s something that’s within my power to do.