CREATION by Deborah Kelly

Imagine a new religion with ‘action for climate change’ central to the core of its beliefs.

8 portraits, CREATION regalia. Photograph: Mia Forrest. Courtesy Deborah Kelly

Sydney-based artist Deborah Kelly and a diverse group of creators are making it happen through the power of artistic collaboration and collectivity under the guise of the evolutionary CREATION project – “a queer, insurrectionary science fiction, climate change religion.”

Until 28 May, audiences are invited to see what the new climate-based religion is all about at Griffith University Art Museum (GUAM), in Brisbane QLD. “GUAM is showing all the textile works: the banners, the tapestries, the costumes and headdresses; the karaoke films, the dance instruction film, the eight portraits, and a new, three channel iteration of the animation ‘For Creation’, they are also organising an amazing thinking collaboration with Law and Drama students there,” says Kelly.

Deborah Kelly, For Creation, animation, installation at Lismore Regional Gallery, New South Wales, 2021/22

With her sights set on making spectacular clamours of noise about environmental catastrophe and with her vision to build a faith of good intention and purpose in response to climate change denial, Kelly has been working with a diverse gathering of artists, choreographers, dancers, composers, singers, writers, filmmakers, animators, costumiers, milliners, and others concerned with climate crisis, in the development and presentation of an evolving series of cross-disciplinary projects, participatory performances, workshops, and ceremony.

CREATION premiered at the Liveworks Festival of Experimental Art, in October 2020. Since then, it has presented in ‘The National’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in 2021, and at Lismore Regional Gallery, from December 2021 to February this year. In March, members of the CREATION Chorale led a procession at the Sydney Opera House dressed in ceremonial regalia; cloaks, masks and headdresses and chanting the CREATION songs composed by writer and performance artist Lex Lindsay, which are based on multidisciplinary artist, writer and performer S.J. Norman’s foundational texts in the Liturgy of the Saprophyte’ – CREATION’s book of Holy Orders.

CREATION procession, Sydney Opera House, 2022. Photograph: Meg Hewitt. Courtesy Deborah Kelly

In all its creative glory, performance, ritual, and collective wisdom, CREATION poses a unique model of environmental activism, an exceptional undertaking with serious undertones that pulsate deep from within the heart of its being.

“For CREATION I offered a premise, payment and provocation to artists I love and admire. I held out scant dry bones and hope, and they handed back blood, stink and breath. Etched skin, heartbeat, foot thump. A flicker. A faith,” Kelly muses with a heart full of gratitude.

Interview with Deborah Kelly on CREATION

How did your idea for a new religion based on creative collaboration to address climate crisis come about?
I was really struck during the Trump years by how willing vast populations seem to be to believe all kinds of pernicious poppycock. Some of these contagious conspiracies are kind of amusing, but some threaten democracy and even planetary life itself: Lizards run the world. The election was stolen. Vaccinations contain transmitters. Climate change isn’t real. Coal is good for humanity. 

It occurred to me that quoting facts at fossil fuel fanatics was at a killing impasse, while so tremendously urgent that we act. I thought something more hectic, hysterical, sensual, wild and alluring might shift that paralysis.

I am hoping to make something post-rational, bigger and more beautiful than the conceptual binaries that contain us.

Since October 2020 at Liveworks, have there been any unexpected developments such as creative output, growth and direction?
Well, who knew the pandemic would go on and on, or that climate change catastrophes would be so stark, so soon? It has been a trial by fire, flood and fever. Everything has changed, over and over, which is partly how the project was designed to evolve, and partly a series of creative rescue missions.

How has the concept of a climate focused religion been received by audiences so far and what are your hopes for it in the future?
So far, when I take a deep breath to tell people I’m founding a queer insurrectionary science fiction climate change religion, they take a moment to parse all those adjectives. And then they say, ‘where do I sign up?’

The project is soon to premiere in Germany, is there a global tour happening?
I so hope so. The animated film, ‘For Creation’, is premiering at Bremen Film Festival in Germany, and at the Toronto Queer Film Festival in Canada, but the material evidence of this new religion is so far confined to this continent. Have we even got international freight services back up? The pandemic closed all those avenues for so long. 

After Griffith, it is going to Newcastle where there will be a physical exhibition at The Lock-up contemporary art gallery AND a gala concert, as part of the 2022 New Annual Festival.

Go to to read more about the CREATION project.

Learn the CREATION dance choreographed by Angela Goh, hear S.J. Norman’s sermon of the liturgy, explore Kelly’s Church Merch, which includes a set of CREATION Liturgy postcards, and the CREATION book, which is being produced by Griffith University Art Museum featuring both visual and written documentation of CREATION alongside newly commissioned academic, theological, environmental and creative reflections about this exciting climate focused religion.