Rapture Institute | of Black expression, embodied ecstasies and playful failure

RAPTURE

  1. An expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion
  2. A state or experience of being carried away by overwhelming emotion
  3. A mystical experience in which the spirit is exalted to a knowledge of divine things

The Rapture Institute; curated in collective communion by Zara Julius and a selection of friends playing and practising in various disciplines and thought processes, ran in Braamfontein at The Point of Order from October first to October 20th in 2019. Julius, a multidisciplinary social practice artist, researcher, and vinyl selector whose work focuses on [B]lack and [B]rown visual, sonic and ritual archives in the Global South has been in conversation with the concept of Rapture for the past 10 years, in an attempt to excavate questions of how individuals in the geopolitical sphere of the Global South make sense of their postcolonial realities and the symptoms thereof. Another key part of Julius’ practice has been the exploration of religious mobilities and their constitution of space as spiritual portals and alternative modes of engaging with a postcolonial cityscape.

Through my conversation with Zara Julius and my subjective thinking through and with the concept of Rapture, it fleshed itself out to me in the recess of my critical imagination as a modality of Black expression and creative play with no promise of arrival at a “finished work,” but rather as a fabricated space of a collective speaking in creative tongues that performs the very work of Rapture, spiritual implications hand in toe. The histories, traditions of radical thought and genealogies rooted in the concept of Rapture are implicit rather than explicit, a welcomed turn away from the trap of over intellectualisation (which I myself almost fell into while talking to Julius) that often suffocates the possibilities of possibility in spaces of creative imagination. The Institute described as “a space of play, experimentation & collaboration around [B]lack expression, embodiment & ecstasies,” is a response in part to the frustrations, needs and desires of [B]lack and [B]rown artists that resists that valid artistic work is only finished work – an idea rooted in histories of white neoliberal cultural and artistic production.

Rapture; a counter discourse that embraces non-arrival. Rapture; that oozing moan that moves between ecstasy, play, failure and destruction. Located on a family tree of radical thought that spans across the Atlantic, with kin such as Christina Sharpe’s Wake Work, Julius has taken a tradition of explorations and playful ponderings of Black existence largely found amongst African American thinkers and punctuated them with expression as located from within the African continent. The Institute was constituted by a synthesis of workshops, propositions and lectures ranging from sonic lectures to dialogues around mental health, and full moon gatherings – even interventions such as Ikhon’ Into Ekhalayo, an exhibition of Johannesburg’s Nightclub archive by BLACKSTUDIO. These portals curated and conjured by Julius and her co-conspirators, transport us to possibilities of “thinking through how we may become enraptured through our own cultural production and daily practices; finding fleeting moments to breathe in the context of post-coloniality”.

One cannot deny that there is an urgent necessity amongst communities of [B]lack and [B]rown artists and creatives for spaces such as the Rapture Institute that allow us to come as we are, that make room for our creative and thinking process to unfold at its own time, where magic can happen through failure and in collective play. One cannot deny that there is an urgent need amongst our communities for these brave spaces, doing this brave work with no promise at arrival.

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