Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation, Considering Digital Ritualism in New Media
by Christopher Michael
January 15, 2022
Ulysses Jenkins, writing on his approach to art-making in the memoir Doggerel Life, states that: Those familiar with the ancients have all recognized and resonated as artists to the role of the shaman. Through those ancestral references, I began to realize my character and identity: the contemporary griot became my model.
Throughout his expansive career, Jenkins has referred to himself as a Video Griot – creating a lineage that ties his practice to the traditional West African bards and poets. Griots were a class of storytellers and performers responsible for passing on folk tales, music, and poems, acting as historians and preserving their culture in certain West African communities.
Jenkins’ work functions in similar ways to the traditional griot, though instead of conventional storytelling he utilizes video and digital methods for ritual and myth-making, updating traditional methods for his contemporary American audience. Jenkins’ work is best read through the lens of technologically mediated ritualism, one that ties traditional practices to digital methods and attempts to expand towards a cosmic consciousness…
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