ANDREW JONES and PHAEDRANA JONES
an interview with David Jay Brown
DAVID: How did you both become interested in creative expression?
PHAEDRANA: In my experience, true creative expression is not a choice but an overpowering inner drive that arises like some invisible golden arrow, which then gradually takes over the course of your life. It’s not that one, say, becomes interested in pursuing it; one day you find it and you literally, or over the course of some time, are ‘taken’ by it. As if a code was playing itself out. The creative path is everyone’s own; when, where, through whom you begin, what holds you back, what shifts the course of your learning, your soul quest, your breakthroughs and challenges. There is no way to compare or determine what the actual path of creative unfolding is or should be.
There are numerous threads in the story of my life so far that together weave the umbilical cord of spontaneous creative expression that fascinates me simply because it is beyond my comprehension. It aids my growth as an individual, because it teaches me humility in recognizing that the more I learn to surrender to not knowing (that is the more faith I have in that which is more than what I know myself to be) the more I may learn about how everything is. My work at its best has no agenda of its own – dance simply dances itself and I moment by moment become its unfolding, like a 3-dimensional sheet. I would relate the image to standing over a cliff and jumping off into the abyss knowing that the clouds will be there to cushion the steps underneath your feet.
Without a foundation or grounding, however, we would have no, or only limited, tools to play with. I believe whatever anyone is drawn to from the heart, where one can recognize passion – that’s your toolbox. That’s where your work begins. And it takes work. Any basics of any discipline take work. Once you have enough tools to play with though, you can then begin watching your game broadcasted on a screen of its own making.
My tools over the years have been widely multidisciplinary, including early studies in acrobatic diving that metamorphosed into new circus and theater at age 11. At age 16 I reinterpreted it all through 4 years of south-Indian classical dance Bharata Natyam and cultural anthropology. Moving on to contemporary Indian dance took me back to Europe to explore contemporary techniques; which, in due course, lead me all the way back to classical ballet in the United States. In some ways this is like speaking multiple languages, or having multiple nationalities, which actually is also the story of my life. By not being bound or locked into any one box, it gets easier to find ourselves in the gaps in-between.
I would add that though it aids the creative process immensely to have a number of different toolboxes to juggle, it is only ever possible to give ourselves fully to one arena at a time – or to the integration of them all, which is then its own arena. I am only a student of my process at this point. Though I do believe once we arrive we run out of questions and have no more doubt clouding our vision.
ANDREW: Throughout the course of my entire life, art has been one of the only things that made any sense to me. The creative process has been a refuge for my mind and a meditation for my imagination. Experiences of drawing and painting are among my first memories as a child. I had had little interest for anything else, and it became clear to me that the road to my happiness lay in factoring an equation of time/effort that kept me drawing and creating as much as possible.
For a large portion of my journey through life the creative process was executed within a container of solitude. Yet the act of creation, or the moment of the act of creation, is the most exhilarating part of the entire process. A finished painting is only a shadow born from the light of that experience.
I’ve somehow always had a natural inclination to explore the creative process. I would, time and again, gravitate toward expanding my means of expression – such as amplifying creative energies through the use of digital tools. When I made the realization that electricity and technology could amplify the power, impact, and exposure of my art, it became a whole new world to explore. Stepping into the realm of the performing arts was another such chapter introduced over time.
I was drawn toward the realm of performance art, and that of live painting, because it allowed for a platform where I could share this moment of creation with a larger group of people. It fascinated me that the act of making art in front of an audience demystified the creative process while earning an added level of validation for it. Our deepest intention of performing in front of people, beyond an attempt to entertain and inspire… is to step into that intangible realm together with them.
PHAEDRANA: We were ‘struck’ or inspired by the spirit of Maui (an island of Hawaii) at the festival ‘Source’ in February 2009. Upon arrival we found ourselves in a giant hall with only a handful of other people simply because everyone else went to sleep! Andrew, as he does, soon embarked on a live painting, projecting onto a giant screen with the ocean right in front.
Over the course of the night it so happened that I waltzed over to the side of his illuminated screen to say hi, dancing in and out of his field of vision focused on the projected visuals. Instead of putting his Wacom pen down though, he began to communicate to me through the screen and I responded. Then something else responded, and the four people who were in the hall at the time stood rooted to the ground. Time stood still. It was as if something had exploded and shot out into a trillion new directions all at once and we were the moment as it all converged. Etched into our minds forever, it was like an invisible conception.
Two days later we were invited to perform at the ‘Talent Show’ of the festival. That was the very first Phadroid performance. Conceived Friday night, rested on Saturday, in the world by Sunday.
ANDREW: Phadroid was born in paradise – in the early morning hours, on a tropical island in the Pacific Ocean, perched on a cliff looking over the edge of the world, in a dimly lit gymnasium, to a handful of witnesses in a heightened state of consciousness received from the land. I was making art with my computer and projecting it across the room. As Phaedra crossed the screen and walked into the projector, that rare jewel of a night, I instantly knew that something had shifted and would never go back to the way it was before.
It was a timeless moment. And in that moment of frozen time, I could speculate into the quantum field as countless branches of possibilities were being born every millisecond that we connected. It was a moment of exponential branching, occurring spontaneously, the spark of a thousand possibilities converging into that one single segment of time. It was something to be truly grateful for.
ANDREW: Phadroid to me opens wide the aperture of perception, through which one may observe the beauty of the molecular density of reality. It awakens me into a world of timeless twilight that feels equally as familiar as it is perpetually unfathomable. Like you’ve been here a thousand times before, but it’s unique to the stored memory of your programing. And, with Phaedra, we navigate this unified field of mystery together as a unit.
As we synchronize our intentions we become the pathway for the intangible. It is a joint act of surrender, not merely an act of performing our individual skill-sets combined. This core weaves the fabric of our reality and we do what we can to guide the loom toward a beautiful tapestry.
PHAEDRANA: All we do is show up. Somehow Phadroid as an experience appears and moves through us and we partake in the journey. Those present will naturally be invited to join in the conversation. This is just a different hall of consciousness that we share without even meaning to as it simply happens to us all. Whatever that is, it is in each one of us, and if we focus in on experiencing that, and nothing else, we invisibly bond like atoms; hence the collective experience induced that opens people up to themselves.
We do not use any motion-tracking device – at its core, Phadroid is a purely human generated multidisciplinary collaboration and it may not be what it now is if it was pre-programmed to a computerized system.
We do not rehearse synchronicity. It points past us. In the realm of the creative we ask no questions, it is all one big answer.
PHAEDRANA: Dance is medicine and when we become the dance we become the medicine. I perceive art as a doorway, like a peaking through so that once you reach there, as a natural state, for an extended moment or longer, you may then say to yourself, “Ah, I know this. I recognize this. I’ve been here before.” Your memory then serves as an affirmation. Like remembering a place you saw in a dream, only more real. It is the thin line where the intangible becomes tangibly acknowledged.
And it puts one in a place of deep reverence for the overpowering presence of reality that surrounds us at all times. It is also a dialogue if one allows, once we realize that we can also listen. Or it can be a living, breathing prayer, akin to stepping into your own temple.
Any discipline at its best may allow a witnessing of one’s purest potential as unnecessary and stagnant boundaries of fear, doubt, insecurity, etc. dissolve away even if only for a moment of time. One might say that which is merely ‘an illusion’ is seen through. As if you could walk through the thick walls of negative experiences, society’s or your own conditionings, expectations or projections, as if those seemingly impenetrable walls were not even there, as if this ‘potential’ was already a living, breathing, tangible realm ever since you were born.
It’s the trailer of our movie. A pointer reminding us of what is possible, or what is more real, so we begin looking at the ground beneath our feet, elevating it inch by inch, step by step, until one day we naturally arrive at the panorama, and then we can always see the panorama. It is important to never give our power up; ultimately, we are at all times the masters of our reality.
Perseverance combined with focused, disciplined work in literally any direction will assist one in sweeping off particles of dust that obscure our sight. Dusting the slate clean it is not in any way personal any more. Art of any form that is in any way universal comes from this place; and it reaches out to people directly.
It works according to its own logic and purpose and those involved in making this kind of art do not ultimately credit themselves for the products of their creative expression. Expression of this form is its own entity – though as soon as we begin to look for it, it disappears. It doesn’t like to be documented either. It can only ever be experienced; and I am still challenged to believe it, except for when it is actually happening of course.
ANDREW: Throughout human history art has served as a harbinger of new thoughts, forms and actions. That path led the way to a history of creative breakthroughs that have all had an effect on humanity’s evolution.
The art of technology? As the individual gains a modest amount of perceived control over a particular software, routine or program, there is a memory stored within the muscles and the body of the user. The goal is to gain mastery over at least one particular routine, so the memory of your muscles upon the application becomes the vortex of your consciousness, your breadcrumb of reality.
All technology is a symphony of code performed by an orchestra of machines, routing a conscious and intentional current. Original art is recognized by its tendencies of unrecognizability; meaning it is a new code being introduced. Art is either fresh code introduced to an old mind, or new mind introduced to old code.
In a deep creative journey there is a point of departure where the only thing keeping you tethered to the physical world are the creative tools in your hands that you hang onto by your fingertips. The process then transforms into an elusive journey back through your own consciousness. The pen becomes my walking staff and a lightning rod that grounds and focuses on the most creative aspect of my imagination, disassociated from veils of distraction and repetition. It’s as if it was an attempt of the tool and my consciousness to merge together. I can tangibly feel the cords interconnecting them as an energy exchange between the logic of the code’s underlying mathematics and my sensitivity. As if I was sensitive to my software to the point of empathy. I know exactly where it’s at and I know exactly how far I can push it before it crashes or I crash. It’s like a tightrope between crashing my program and crashing my consciousness.
The metaphorical relationships that I can create to describe the experience is like this. It feels like I’m hunting lions on the edge of a fractal. I’m on Safari in a landscape that’s made of pixels, maths and imagination and I’m hunting for combinations of edges, shapes and colors to carry new codes into the pantheon of art history. Pixel by pixel, bit by bit, from vector to vortex to viral.
Imagine editing along a timeline. If your consciousness exists on a linear timeline at the point of departure, you slowly dissolve the connection point. It’s like you split the play-head of reality and you become free of time. The road behind you disintegrates into the void, and you’re so far out ahead of where you were, that there’s nothing in front of you or behind you. You’re free. For one moment you’re free of all cultural rationality and expectation; you are the thread merging with the loom, weaving a new tapestry of consciousness, clearing a new path into the fractalline wave of creative construction. As your comprehension of time deteriorates, the value and respect of the eternal equation that you have always experienced expands. Your perception is the tip of the record’s needle spinning forward. Your decisions are derived from a source beyond knowing, and it exceeds my ability to describe it.
PHAEDRANA: If something is going through my mind while I am performing that means I’ve fallen out of it all and am probably figuring out how to switch the mind back off, which in itself is paradoxical so it can, and hopefully does, throw me off to the point that I give up and then I’m ‘back’ before I know it. When my work was more choreography-based, it one day happened that the external circumstances provided by a particular venue were so completely the opposite of what I had anticipated that my mind short-circuited and showed up as totally blank, to the point that I had no choice but to just be in the moment.
I could not remember any of what I had done on stage and felt absolutely terrible that I had let everyone down, did not deliver the post – only to find out that the audience was ‘simply blown away’ and it made no sense at all though that was exactly why. When sense is placed aside the lid is blown off; and if our presence is still complete what may transpire is more than what we could imagine or plan for. It’s in those moments that I begin to allow myself to believe that being out of control can be just as much if not more a blessing as being in control. I, or the ‘I’ that I know, does not ‘create’ magic. It allows magic through. And for that there are no rules to make up prior; it is a state of being where we are of no importance.
ANDREW: I turn on, tune in, and drop into another frequency of love. In essence, I seek to arrive at a state out of mind where my total focus is on our deepest possible connection together. Then I must drop out and allow the environment to dissolve around me. I infuse my consciousness into the dynamic particles of electric light that I wield at will with the integration of a digital drawing tablet. Together we are tuned to the same frequency of music as my imagination cascades across traces of her movement. At times I do not even see her… yet I know exactly where she is and my brush will anticipate her arrival out of invisibility to begin a new curve or line or accent. It is like a techno-digital interactive Tai Chi. There are times I can tangibly feel there is a pulse, an energy between us, and the longer I can hold it the stronger it gets, until I can’t take it any more or I lose it or the song changes. Perhaps if art is an expression of one’s core being, then this form of artistic union delivers the chemistry between two beings.
PHAEDRANA: As you lend control over to the creative process that will require your mind to go blank in order to switch on, in some ways you lose the connection between mind and body, in other words you find it. You are more your ‘inner’ self and you are less the self you ‘know’ – thus you have less control as you know it yet you feel you finally have a clear grasp of how it all just falls into place. At times it feels as if an infinite form of cellular memory got activated, something that’s always been there, or as if new blood was flowing through the veins.
The creative process at its core dissolves the borders of conventional reality generated by the integration of the mind and body at a certain frequency. Due to this shift, it becomes possible to step beyond what we normally perceive as reality, or to see ourselves as separate from events of the past, present, or future, which in turn may ‘allow’ us to detach from them and find new perspectives. And, ultimately, how many bodies do we ‘have’? How many layers to our mind? What else is working through us that is higher than the mind? Where does the mind end and something else begin? Does the body recognize the soul more than the mind, given that it is more instinctual than intellectual by nature? Is the mind’s carefully assembled creation or the body’s raw spontaneous expression more real? What is real to begin with?
ANDREW: Sometimes I view the body as the technological intermediary molecular machine that is designed to facilitate the expression of consciousness. At peak moments within the creative experience my consciousness extends beyond the organic body into the energetic matrix of technology – that of circuits, and electricity; and my mind’s intention activates its inert potential. As I loosen the grasp on my consciousness, the body can begin to behave automatically, and if I let go at the right time the automation is harmonious.
The repetition programmed into my muscles’ memory executes and commands effortlessly as long as I trust it enough to get out of its way – and I have to make sure that everything is plugged in! It’s riding the line between a technical experiment and a mystical experience. I merge with the tools that I use to the extent that they feel like a physical extension of myself. The Tablet, the laptop, the software, the circuits, the code, the files, my bones, my blood, and my tears, are all factors within a larger equation. I’m integrated within them; we all make up this mind/body alchemical experiment together.