Thu. Dec 3rd, 2020
Deborah Kelly is fighting 'truth decay' by inventing a new religion

Closer to home, she cites Australia’s response to climate change.

“After the most terrible fires in history, which are clearly an effect of climate change, Australia has committed itself to a fossil fuel-led recovery from the pandemic,” she says. “All of this irrational, suicidal behaviour that our species has engaged in so readily is such a source of grief and dismay.

“It’s as if we’ve fallen through the mirror. These things are profoundly dangerous to life on Earth.”

Kelly’s new “simulated religion” is called Creation. When complete it will be a “crowd-sourced belief system teeming with pleasure and possibilities”.

And, as she has discovered, there is a lot to think about when setting up a new belief system from scratch. From inventing ceremonies to writing songs and creating costumes to designing banners, Kelly’s to-do-list is extensive. Many of these elements are completed or in train, including a central liturgy or manifesto that has been written by Wiradjuri artist SJ Norman.

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This week, Kelly is collaborating with choreographer and dancer Angela Goh and a group of volunteers to create a new liturgical dance as part of this year’s Liveworks festival of experimental art at Carriageworks.

“The dance steps are going to be devised with people who participate in the Liveworks workshop and the steps will be turned into instructional videos so people can learn the dance steps,” says Kelly. The accompanying music, she describes as a “religious disco anthem”.

Religion has informed much of Kelly’s work – due in part to her spending 13 years in a Catholic convent school.

“I see my work as participating in the big discussions around religion and lots of religious people participate in the collective things that I make, which is a great joy to me,” she says.

So what is the future for Creation once it is complete and released into the world some time next year?

“I really expect people to flock to join,” she says. “But to be honest if I can’t have a whole religion I’d settle for a cult!”

Liveworks continues until October 25, performancespace.com.au

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