Off the highway between Launceston and Hobart in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Kempton, there’s a tiny, bright blue church. It hasn’t been used by the dwindling Presbyterian congregation since the forties.
Come June, that little blue church will see the light again as part of Crossing. It’s a week-long Tasmanian pilgrimage of light, sound and scent, including performances by a gang of roving minstrels led by Melbourne thereminist and The Night Terrors frontman Miles Brown, and including Einstürzende Neubauten guitarist Alexander Hacke and artist/musician Danielle de Picciotto.
Tasmania’s Midland Highway is dotted with churches, but changing times have left them behind. Pews have gathered dust, histories have been forgotten and organs have gone up to 40 years without being played. David Patman and Michelle Boyde, founders of Unconscious Collective, want to give them new life. “We’re interested in the idea of pilgrimage,” says Patman. “It underpins a lot of European spiritual traditions, but what does a pilgrimage mean now that the world is increasingly secular?”
It’s a way of shedding light on these forgotten spaces. Literally. Theatre-maker and lighting specialist Matthew Adey, known for his work with House of Vnholy, will be illuminating the churches inside and out.
“We’re taking a lot of inspiration from the landscape around the church,” says Boyde. “Each installation will be inspired by natural elements.” To this end, olfactory artist Shay Zhang will be adding a scent element to each venue. That blue church in Kempton, for instance, will be filled with the scent of oak, in keeping with the surrounding trees.
“These are still functioning churches, but their congregations have really dwindled to the point where they’ve become unviable,” says Patman. “They’ve been bypassed by the highway. We want to change that.”
Crossing runs June 14–18 across Tasmania.
Pilgrim Uniting Church, Launceston
Installation Tuesday June 13, 5.30pm–9pm; Performance with Miles Brown, Danielle de Picciotto and Alexander Hacke (Einstürzende Neubauten): Tuesday June 13, 7pm, $39 + booking fee.
Former Union Chapel, Cleveland
Installation Wednesday June 14, 5.30pm–9pm; Performance Wednesday June 14, 7pm, free.
Uniting Church, Ross
Installation Thursday June 15, 5.30pm–9pm; Performance Thursday 15 June, 7pm, free.
Oatlands Uniting Church, Oatlands
Installation Friday June 16, 5.30pm–9pm; Performance Friday June 16, 7pm, free.
Former Presbyterian Church, Kempton
Installation Saturday June 17, 5.30pm–9pm; Performance Saturday June 17, 7pm, free.
Scots-Memorial Uniting Church, Hobart
Installation Sunday June 18, 5.30pm–9pm; Performance Sunday June 18, 7pm, free.
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