Make belief: the art of inventing religions
Dudeck, Michael Ryan
Attention has recently turned, within the study of New Religious Movements, to the phenomenon of invented religions. Invented religions import transmedial works of speculative fiction from art and popular culture and convert these fictions into scriptures for new forms of religious belief. I approach this phenomenon from the unique position of being both a student and practitioner of invented religions. For the past thirteen years, my work as an artist and cultural engineer has focused upon the re-construction of a fictional queer religion as art, called RELIGIONVIR.US. My religion invokes sci-fi franchise culture and merges Judeo-Christian iconography with psychedelic, queer and cyberpunk aesthetics, to produce a religion as an ongoing transmedial space opera whose “episodes” have been presented as artworks in over twenty five countries worldwide. RELIGIONVIR.US explores religion as an infective agent capable of multiplying within the living cells of its host, while proposing religion as a form of multimedia production capable of inspiring beliefs, generating worldviews and engineering cultures. This Practise-led PhD explores the fabrication of my own invented religion in relation to others of its kind, as a manual of techniques both studied and utilised to elicit “religious experiences” in secular publics through art. It speculates upon the processes that conspire to transform something “made” into something “believed”, the possibility of religion as an artistic medium, and probes what happens when people begin to “believe” in something that they know is a fabrication. The contents of my artistic portfolio produced within the auspices of the PhD are presented throughout the dissertation as case studies of “Religious Prosthetics”: devices designed with the intent to conjure religious reactions among various publics. Make Belief: The Art of Invented Religions probes the intersections of art, religion, myth and popular culture to speculate upon the difference between make-believe and make-belief in the post-truth era of deepfakes and alternative facts.