Jonathan Harris (b. Aug 27, 1979) is a visual artist, known for his work with data and storytelling.
Combining elements of computer science, cartography, anthropology, photography, and ritual, his artworks explore the mysteries of life — especially the ways that humans are transforming reality through different kinds of technology.
He studied painting (with Tim Engelland) at Deerfield Academy, and then studied computer science (with Brian Kernighan) and photography (with Emmet Gowin) at Princeton University, before spending a year in Italy to study interaction design (with Andy Cameron) at Benetton's Fabrica.
In 1999, inspired by the diaries of Peter Beard, he started keeping elaborate sketchbooks, filled with watercolor paintings, plants, insects, clippings, and other marginalia. In 2003, he was robbed at gunpoint and abandoned this practice, adopting computer code as his primary medium instead.
From 2003-2008, he made a series of data visualization projects for the Internet, including Wordcount (2003), 10x10 (2004), Just Curious (2005), We Feel Fine (2006, with Sep Kamvar), Universe (2007), and I Want You To Want Me (2008, with Sep Kamvar).
In 2007, he began to execute a series of experiential projects, in which he collected data directly from life. These include The Whale Hunt (2007), Balloons of Bhutan (2011), I Love Your Work (2013), and a forthcoming project about pictographs in the wilderness of Utah.
In 2009, on his thirtieth birthday, he began a simple ritual of taking a photo and writing a short story each day, and posting them on the Internet before going to sleep. He continued this practice for 440 days, and called the resulting project Today. His friend, the filmmaker Scott Thrift, made a short film about this process.
From 2009-2012, he developed Cowbird, a public library of human experience, allowing people to share personal vignettes from their lives, which are automatically networked together, revealing the interconnectedness of human life.
From 2013-2014 he experienced a period of creative block, which he wrote about in his illustrated essay, Navigating Stuckness.
In 2016, he left New York to return to his home state of Vermont, and his mother died the day he moved home. He is currently working on a series of performative “rituals” to “cleanse” his family’s land of what has been a difficult human history.
His work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It has also been exhibited at The Barbican Centre (London), The Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Le Centre Pompidou (Paris), The CCCB (Barcelona), the Garage Museum for Contemporary Art (Moscow), the CAFA Art Museum (Beijing), and the Pace Gallery (New York).
He has lectured all over the world, including at the TED Conference, PopTech, EG, AIGA, PSFK, Creative Mornings, The Aspen Ideas Festival, Google, Kodak, Converse, Hallmark, Proctor & Gamble, The GAP, The New York Times, and at universities such as Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Pratt, Parsons, and RISD.
In 2007, Tokyo Type Director’s Club awarded him their “Interactive Design Prize” for his project, The Whale Hunt. In 2008, Print Magazine named him a “New Visual Artist.” In 2009, the World Economic Forum named him a “Young Global Leader.” TIME Magazine named his project, Cowbird, one of the “50 Best Websites of 2012.” In 2013, he received IDFA’s “DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling” for his project, I Love Your Work. In 2014, he received an artist-in-residence position at Pioneer Works. In 2015, he received a “Tending Spaces Fellowship” from the Hemera Foundation, supporting artists with a contemplative practice. In 2016, he received an Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography for his project, Network Effect.
Over the years, he has lived in Treviso, Italy (at Fabrica), Sisters, Oregon (at Caldera), Siglufjörður, Iceland (at Herhúsið), Sante Fe, New Mexico (at the Santa Fe Art Institute), Melbourne, Australia (at the University of Melbourne), Pacifica, California (at Shelter Cove), and in Brooklyn, New York.
He currently lives in Shelburne, Vermont — on land that has been in his family for five generations.