PAST RAPTURES (2013-2014)
INAUGURAL SOLO EXHIBITION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER'S HARTNETT GALLERY IN MARCH 2017
Rapture reflects on queer sexuality alongside evangelical upbringing in North Carolina. These images are a collection of altered gay porn video stills, influenced by the biblical Rapture: the sudden disappearance of all Christian bodies taken to Heaven before the end of the world (or Tribulation), most popularly modeled in Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind franchise. These Rapture and Tribulation stories collude with US military occupations in the Middle East: engineered conflicts made to appear as divine harbingers of the end, pointing to the imperial psyche of American Southern evangelicalism. The success of evangelical Rapture localizes the body as a control over life itself. While the term ‘Rapture’ references cultural and biblical narrative, it also means a feeling of intense pleasure or joy. In some regard, these images can be seen as an attempt to reclaim queerness from the homophobia, rejection, and general stigma historically imposed by evangelical Christianity.
The results of crossing these conflicted ideas of Rapture, though, are complicated by US narratives of cultural assimilation and gradualist ‘progress’ like pinkwashing and homonationalism - the limited acceptance of queer (specifically gay and lesbian) identities in normalizing state power and military nationhood. Formalized through digital collage, the hegemonic male bodies in Rapture become a site for cultural intersection, questioning their resonance and dissonance with the same terms of national conquest as those culturally inscribed in the biblical Rapture. These pornographic bodies become vessels for the flow of ideology, emptied by the prospect of sudden disappearance (taken from video stills as a means of stopping time), whether by divine will or pawns of state erasure.
Queer pleasure and desire remain subject to political negotiation. Despite the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in favor of upholding same-sex marriage, it means little in states like North Carolina, where violent laws like 2016’s House Bill 2 (and similar bills across the country), the 2016 mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub, or Trump’s rescinding of rights and protections for trans students continue rendering ‘national progress’ as neoliberal farce. By intertwining narratives of evangelical Rapture and gay porn, I hope to provide entry for more expansive critiques of US empire, stemming from the body itself. Speaking to the historic social and cultural relegation of queer identities, the ‘Raptured’ pornographic bodies are replaced with compositions of surplus, while suggesting the possibility for ongoing re-invention.
Topher Lineberry © 2021