Jonathan PJ Smith with projectors

I’m originally from North-east England. When I was almost 16, we moved to Montreal, Canada. I was a bit of a problem child and dropped out of high school a year later. My friend, Carl, was planning on hitchhiking across Canada. I asked if I could join him and he said yes. And so began my journeying around the world. For over two decades traveling was the absolute focus of my attention; it took me across the Sahara Desert in a beat-up old Volvo, to an asbestos mine on the southern fringes of Siberia, into the tributaries of the mighty Amazon. Along with it came a love of geography, geopolitics, language learning, and eventually linguistics. I thought I’d found everything I could ever want in life…until I discovered art.

I was in Site Santa Fe, a gallery in New Mexico, when I suddenly understood that what I wanted to do more than anything was make immersive installations. I started attending Fishbon, an arts collaborative/event lab in Santa Barbara, California and began making installations.

Art has now become my substitute for travel; instead of going somewhere externally I now do it internally. Instead of going to see wonders, I try to create my own. My first large installation, Unstable Reality, was just such a piece — a journey through chambers representing the first, second, and third dimensions. The Sensorium was a cavern for the senses.  Watching it grow organically into reality was a lot like long-distance hitchhiking, I never knew where I’d end up at the end of the day. It was exciting.

The realm of video has proved to be one of the more intriguing and seductive treks into the world of immersive installation art. I particularly loved Nymphaea. Creating it was like crossing the border between two distinct realities; the world that we documented and the abstract world we created. The transformation, from a reality to an abstract, has, in its turn, transformed me. I have become obsessed with the wonder and potential of projection.

One day, the two major passions of my life, travel, and art, will come together to create something bigger. I already have plans.

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