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created by  

John Sanborn

Festival Videoformes

March 18 - April 4, 2021

in the the Chapelle de l’Ancien Hôpital Général, Clermont-Ferrand, France


Everyone wants to believe in something.

We spend our lives searching for ideas, structures and people to invest our faith in, because we think they will provide us with answers to questions we KNOW cannot be answered.

This is why we love American Messiahs.

But we have questions. Like: what causes us to follow claims of personal divinity, off-kilter pseudoscience, and communication with the dead or prophecies of worldly glory from spiritual entrepreneurs? This work exploits our fixation with a modern representation of the most zealous exponents of America’s unofficial national faith: a spiritual smorgasbord of hucksterism, and confused but positive thinking, seasoned through an invented spiritual movement known as New Thought.

This 17 channel installed work presents the leader of New Thought as a mysterious but charismatic figure, who calls himself “The Friend”, delivering seven sermons filled with instruction, divination, personal confession and a sticky hot mess of ambiguity.

The Friend is accompanied by 8 Saints, of dubious distinction, and animations of their relics, who testify to the divination of this new religion and celebrate their freedom to build a utopia, consisting of damaged souls.

The Friend premiered in March 2021 at the Festival Videoformes in Clermont-Ferrand, France, installed in the Chapelle de l’Ancien Hôpital Général. The Friend is scheduled to show at Festival Access in October 2021, ZKM March-August 2022 and Transcultures in November 2022.


The Friend is played by John Cameron Mitchell.

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