SHOW AND TELL #18: Deborah Kelly


Deborah For Artist Profile Magazine

Deborah Kelly is a Sydney-based artist. Her projects across media are concerned with lineages of representation, politics and history in public exchange. You will be able to watch her film Lying Women in our The Social Script programme. It’s an animated collage, made of images the artist has cut from discarded art history books. Deborah has collated hundreds of printed paintings of the recurring reclining female nudes that represent high culture and its pinnacle moments in western art. Stop-motion animation suggests other lives for these figures as they move and gather across the screen, one in which they perhaps have more agency over their bodies, desires and representation.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Well, it’s hard to imagine happiness being perfect in this terrifying historical moment of hatreds inflamed by treacherous leaders. The absorption of making a work while possessed by the idea, though, remains a joy.

2. What lies at the heart of your own desire to make films?
It felt like my artworks wanted to move. The impetus came from them, lying under my bed, rustling.

3. What are the first things you do in developing a film idea in response to a subject?
Try to be present-and-absent enough to attend to the artworks’ own desires.

4. What’s your favourite film and why?
I still totally love Bladerunner, but have you seen artist Angelica Mesiti’s Citizens Band? It’s a four-channel work of great power and tenderness, with the most wonderful music made by its subjects.

5. Choose 1, 2 or 3 of your all-time favourite music tracks!
I am still crazy about the score of my own film Lying Women, composed by Evelyn Ada Morris and engineered by Adam Hulbert. It’s made almost entirely of the sounds of women breathing. It’s on my ipod & I still listen to it every day.

6. From your favourite poem – could you give us a few lines that mean something to you?

Crossing the Water, Sylvia Plath

Black lake, black boat, two black, cut-paper people.
Where do the black trees go that drink here?
Their shadows must cover Canada.

A little light is filtering from the water flowers.
Their leaves do not wish us to hurry:
They are round and flat and full of dark advice.

Cold worlds shake from the oar.
The spirit of blackness is in us, it is in the fishes.
A snag is lifting a valedictory, pale hand;

Stars open among the lilies.
Are you not blinded by such expressionless sirens?
This is the silence of astounded souls.

7. If you were to die and come back as a person, animal or a thing, what would it be?
If there’s reincarnation I’ll just be super grateful that there’s more life.

8. What is your greatest extravagance?

9. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Collective acts against oppression, as art and as politics, are satisfying on every level

10. What is your final word?
I’m not ready to go yet!