It’s impossible to look at the creations of immersive visual artist Android Jones without thinking about the world just a little bit differently for just a little while. Even if it’s only for a few seconds, the psychonaut and self-proclaimed “mixed media matador” portrays the evolution of consciousness in such captivating, brilliant detail that it demands a closer look, which inherently raises questions about the human experience. Android Jones believes human consciousness is a dynamic, ever-evolving collective entity that’s presently demanding increasingly immersive experiences as well as more shared experiences, because when we’re experiencing something amazing our first instinct to usually share it. His new installation in Downtown Los Angeles, Samskara, is an immersive experience housed inside The Wisdome Art Park, and it’s both the synthesis of his life’s work and quite literally a trip inside his imagination.
As you enter the projection-mapped dome where the Samskara film is shown after walking through a two-dimensional gallery of his work, the sheer grandiosity of the vision Andrew has realized starts to sink in. Lying back to take in the film during Samskara’s opening weekend, I realize how many layers of his own creation are at play. Most of his works begin as sketches, which are then digitally painted, and for the purposes of this installation, animated. Using homemade software he calls Microdose, he’s crafted a shared VR experience that has all the magic of VR without the isolation. Andrew came to VJ using Microdose for the park’s grand opening, which allows him to control what images are displayed, how they move, and to trigger special effects in real time. So while he’s inside a VR headset using Microdose to put on the Samskara show, we’re witnessing the ultimate incarnation of his art being iterated in real time from inside his mind.
“The software lets me use my body to manipulate geometrical forms in color and space and the hardware allows those visuals to be projected in an immersive theatre,” he explained. “Roughly one-third of our brain’s bandwidth is reserved for processing the visual signals into our reality. The real experience happens inside the individual’s consciousness,” he explained about the experience of the being inside The Wisdome, watching Samskara unfold.
Android’s own artistic style goes by names like pop-shamanism and electro-mineralism, neither of which really describe quite how his work feels, in my opinion. Psychedelic futurism feels truer to me, especially considering the medium his works have taken. Samskara is art expressly aimed at expanding human consciousness and pays tribute to the many Vedic gods and goddesses who’ve been at the beacons of consciousness expansion for centuries. Although Android does not claim his work to be a substitute for psychedelic substances, he agrees they operate similarly to the intention behind his work as the so-called “finger pointing at the moon,” a zen statement meaning something is only as helpful as what it points towards, be it the moon or the true nature of being human. “You want to make that finger as sexy and appealing as possible,” he explains, “but it’s still just pointing at what’s already there for the individual to experience.”
He attributes some of the development of his psychedelic futurism style to his own individual experience getting to spend in nature alone as a kid, which I would argue could be considered a psychedelic experience in and of itself. “The root of all inspiration is born from our observations and experiences with the natural world,” he said. “Nature will always be the precursor; psychedelics without nature is terrifying,” he cautions. His artistic career began at just 8 years old and continued to evolve in its uninterrupted purity until age 11 when Andrew had to have brain surgery due to an emergency, life-threatening venous malformation, the cause of which is unknown. There’s a real sadness to this part of his story, even though the end result of that terrifying experience was the Andrew making the unshakeable decision to spend more time in his own mind and sketch pad. “I didn’t trust the world anymore, and when you don’t trust the world it’s a lot easier to live inside,” he explained, characterizing his life as existing both before and after the surgery. He delved deeper and deeper into his art over the years and after discovering psychedelics at age 16, the Android Jones style we now know really began to take shape.
“Trauma may be one of the most unwelcome and unpleasant of the creative muses, but the results speak for themselves and evidence of its success decorates the interiors of the world’s finest museums,” Andrew says of how he dealt with life after his near-death experience. “Psychedelics allow us to take the power of trauma into our own hands; they are chemical slot machines that we gamble away our hard-earned karma for a chance to glimpse a reality beyond our imagination. You might hit the jackpot of self-discovery and merge with the cosmic unconditional love of pure consciousness, or you might win a round trip through and endless void of eternal separation from source. Your individual mileage and destination may vary, But, nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
He acknowledges that there is a unified intention behind his work related to human consciousness expansion, and not in a preachy way that asks us to do anything, per se. Even though he believes they’re a very valuable tool for helping us understand ourselves, his work isn’t asking us to try psychedelics or adjust our worldview in any way. Experiencing Samskara is the most advanced means we have to see the world and all its infinite possibilities as he does, and just that little microdose of his perspective (pun fully intended) is enough to make us think. Perhaps any residual preachiness is distilled out by virtue of his intention; Andrew sees himself as a channel, a tool that higher consciousness works through because it is its own entity that takes on the permutations it requires to expand itself.
And that consciousness, which Andrew says is demanding increasingly immersive and shared experiences, was the driving force behind undertaking the creation of his Microdose software and launching his dome at Burning Man in 2008, an extremely rudimentary version of what you’ll experience at the Wisdome Park. This first incarnation of the experience on the Playa was just a bunch of hanging canvases; only since 2015 has the Android Jones dome experience evolved to video-mapped projections of his work. That iteration debuted at Lightning in a Bottle in 2015 and has since evolved to become the 30,000 square foot showcase featuring 70+ of his works in nine different formats. The Park is also hosting music events, a complete calendar of which can be viewed here, and check out the video below to get a taste of what you’ll experience inside the world of Samskara.