Cable Cosmologies


Storytelling, on a universe-shaping scale and in a spastic, homespun-costume style, has underpinned most of Bay Area-artist Kamau Amu Patton's work, from advertising posters mounted on the sides of bus shelters to animistic works on paper. Having trained in sociology and physics before completing an MFA at Stanford University, the artist's background in both social critique and the ordering principals of the cosmos both come into play in his video-focused installation work, which borrows from the vernacular of African American cable-access cult leaders. Spinning eccentric cosmologies of divine kingship that cross invented hybrids of African and Christian religious ritual with the low-budget aesthetics of local programming, the artist uses this sub genre of American television to create sometimes ridiculously overblown rites and iconographies surrounding apocalyptic prophesies. Rather than a parody of TV mystics, however, the work traces the media conditions under which these kinds of millenarian narratives are told and their visionary creators find a pulpit. Promising to investigate "the media produced of African American cult activity in America, including the 5 Percent Nation, Nuwaubian Nation, and the Black Hebrew Israelites," an exhibition of his recent work is currently on view at Machine Project, in Los Angeles. Here video work is accompanied by sculptural objects related to occult practices in an installation that speaks volumes about American folk narratives playing out on television as it takes up the conventions of the cable cult genre.