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In And The Word Was God, children and young adolescents perform religious rituals and texts, transcribed through a series of staged photographic and moving image works. The works focus on the way religion is so often learnt and internalised through adoption of and adherence to pre-existing structures, making use of the performative language at the heart of religious practice. They explore the process of ‘coming of age’, probing the encounter between religion’s collective nature and identity, and the individual taking on religious beliefs and practices. Through considered use of lighting, colour and composition, alongside the repetition of symbolic motifs, the work alludes to the constructed nature of religious identity, yet holds the viewer specifically through the moments that escape such constraints. It is characterised by a tension between archetypes and inconsistencies, between performance, uncertainty, and seemingly earnest spiritual intent.
Questions begin to emerge about the authenticity of performance and the assumed correlation between performance and understanding. Subtle details, like a crisply starched blue shirt, hint at parental influences on a child’s actions, whilst the focus on internal states suggests the possibility of sincere religious sentiment. The moving image segments engage particularly with the process of learning underlying commitment to a shared identity, calling attention to the performance itself as a fundamental aspect of this. The series as a whole draws attention to the power of ritual in shaping our sense of cultural identity, yet simultaneously affirms the unbridgeable gap between conventionalised ritual language and the unpredictable, even unknowable nature of individual experience.