Whilst meeting up for Xmas drinks in Darwin 2019, artists Therese Ritchie, Chips Mackinolty and Todd Williams decided to explore ‘The Rapture’ as a theme for an upcoming group exhibition.
The eschatological concept of ‘Rapture'—a belief-system held by certain Christians, particularly branches of American evangelicalism and Australian Pentecostal churches such as Hillsong, Pentecostal Holiness Church, or Horizon Church (of which The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, and his family are members) consists of an end-time event when all ‘believers’ who are alive, along with resurrected believers, will rise in the air to meet the Lord.
The issue for these three artists was not that people believed in something contrary to their own paradigm, it was that Scott Morrison’s mind was entrenched in what they believed to be a dangerous end-of-days view where immunity to literally anything required nothing more than a belief in Jesus through a possession by The Holy Spirit.
So what is The Rapture?
Scott Morrison’s Pentecostal faith teaches that mega fires, floods, wars, famine and disease signal ‘end of days’. This is known as The Great Tribulation. This is also accompanied by The Rapture, which refers to that moment when believers in Jesus will be literally taken up into the sky and supernaturally preserved (along with the dead) to a glorious meeting with the Lord in His triumphal descent (apparently there will be trumpets blaring). Rapturous desire and the rapture story is welcomed by believers because it is a rescue story—and yes people can believe what they like—but it’s worth noting that the escapist nature of the ‘rapture story’ makes it easy for a believer to deny any idea or policy that would contradict their end-of-days world view—there is no need to slow climate change, protect the vulnerable, pursue world peace, because everything is part of god’s plan and as believers, they will be spared.
Outsiders, or non-believers mistakenly believe the origins of The Rapture are biblical and yet the word Rapture does not appear in the bible at all. Credit for its origin generally goes to John Nelson Darby, a 19th-century theologian. Originally an Anglican clergyman in Ireland in 1825, Darby left the church in 1831. It was after an accident where he fell from a horse, leaving him seriously injured, that he began to believe that the "kingdom" described in the Book if Isaiah and elsewhere in the Old Testament was entirely different from the Christian church. Over the next five years, he developed the principles of his mature theology—most notably his conviction that the very notion of a clergyman was a sin against the Holy Spirit, because it limited the recognition that the Holy Spirit could speak through any member of the Church. Darby traveled widely in Britain, Europe and America and wrote extensively about his beliefs. His reinterpretation of the bible and pre-tribulation rapture theology was popularized in the early 20th century via the wide circulation of the Scofield Reference Bible and United States evangelicalism.
This would make The Rapture and The Great Tribulation theory 190 years old and given falling off his horse was the inspiration for Darby's change in beliefs, it’s not a stretch to assume that The Rapture and The Great Tribulation were the consequence of a serious brain injury.
From the moment of deciding to make work about The Rapture, national and global events moved very, very rapidly—from the unspeakable destruction and heart-wrenching carnage of the Australian bush fires to the Covid-19 pandemic, infecting and killing thousands and causing the collapse of economies throughout the world. Given there is hardly time for anyone to recover from one blow before the next one falls, the shock and grief of such events have traumatised nations in ways we cannot fathom.
In an environment like this an artist will try to make work that is relevant, but it is very difficult to keep up with the accelerating pace of the humanity’s experience. Given the newly introduced social distancing regulations have made an exhibition impossible, the artists are now making work ‘on the go’ incorporating these unfolding global developments into their work as they, ironically, feed into The Great Tribulation and Rapture theories which celebrate fire, flood, famine and disease as signs of a ‘believer’s’ righteousness.
Ritchie's initial take on the Rapture explores Australia’s fiscal system’s 240-year ecstatic affair with fossil fuels, in particular coal, and more recently fracking. But as the ravaging bush fires and Covid-19 unraveled, her themes have shifted. The following artists statements by Ritchie will explain some images whereas other images are self-explanatory. Bear in mind this site will be updated as more work is created.
Coal Rapture in John Glover’s Country
In 2019, Australia exported 37.8% of the worlds coal. It is part of the Australian landscape and questioning it is met with great resistance.
The mining boom, with coal and ore at its heart has irrevocably shaped the Australian economy. No longer a useful addition to other sectors of Australia’s economy, mining competes with them, as taxpayers’ money for roads, ports and bridges is being used to service the coal industry rather than supporting other sectors. Given the all-but unqualified support of federal and state governments for new mining ventures, coal production in Australia has tripled since the 1980s with The Hunter Region in New South Wales holding most of the 60 coalmines in the state and producing 70 percent of the state’s coal.
Queensland is the scene for the most hysterical rush with 54 existing mines and over 30 new mines planned since 2010. It is worth noting that the Queensland government is in a race to increase coal production to more than 400million tonnes by 2025. The players illustrated in this image are: New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian; the Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk; Prime Minister Scott Morrison; leader of the Labor opposition Anthony Albanese; Matt Canavan; Barnaby Joyce and John Glover’s (1767–1849) Ben Lomond from Mr Talbot’s Property—Four Men Catching possums.
Rapture in Adani’s Country
The Galilee Basin—the site for Queensland’s massive new coalmines—is the best solar country in eastern Australia, and yet …The players illustrated in this image are: The Crown; Gina Rinehart; Clive Palmer; Scott Morrison; the quiet Australian and the Galilee Basin as I imagined it would have appeared in the carboniferous era, the geological time for the formation of coal.
Fracking Criminal Stupidity in the Northern Territory
In 2016, The Northern Territory government went into an election with a moratorium on fracking. In April 2018, following a 15-month scientific inquiry, the freshly elected Labor Chief Minister, Michael Gunner, said the practice could resume. Even though the overwhelming response from the NT community—as stated in the inquiry—was that they did not want fracking, nor did they trust mining companies or the government to regulate fracking, Gunner and his cabinet (Gerald McCarthy, Lauren Moss, Dale Wakefield, Ken Knowles, Eva Lawler, and Natasha Fyles) did the unthinkable, and opened up huge areas of the country (51%) to be transformed into industrial gas fields.
Before Xmas 2019, Eva Lawler, the Territory Minister for Climate Change signed off on fracking, allowing SANTOS, who paid 11.51% tax on a five-year income of $18,436,190, 420 (less than tax paid by Territory workers on the minimum wage) to frack the Gulf of Carpentaria; and ORIGIN to frack The Barkly using 60 million litres of pristine Territory water per fracked well.
So, are you calm and rapture ready? Scott is. Pentecostal believers see themselves as immune because of their faith in Jesus, Psalm 91 being their protection policy. Psalm 91: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence.
Australia’s king coal
With over 400 operating coal mines, Australia is the biggest coal exporter in the world. When Australian coal is burnt overseas the amount of carbon dioxide produced is higher than the exported emissions of nearly all the world’s biggest oil and gas producing nations.
I prey for you
On April 1st 2020 in a video (which appears to be filmed in his prime ministerial office) Scott Morrison shared biblical verses from Psalms about God delivering the righteous from troubles and from Isaiah saying that the Lord would guide us always and satisfy our needs in a sun-scorched land.
One could not make this drivel up, so it’s worth quoting him. “It is a moment like when Moses looked out at the sea and held up his staff … there are moments of great faith in this …Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins—that’s a prophecy over our country, I believe—and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called repairer of broken walls, and a restorer of streets with dwellings … I pray that we will be a restorer of streets, with people in them, businesses open again, Australians going about their lives again, returning to their jobs, returning to their livelihoods, returning to normal times in our schools so children can learn and that we can get to the other side of this.”
It goes without saying that this could be interpreted as ScoMo's April Fools joke on the nation.
Colonial and COVID-19 Rapture 1770–2020
On 19 March 2020, 2,700 passengers aboard The Ruby Princess were allowed to freely disembark in Sydney (despite passengers on board showing signs of respiratory illnesses, and some being transported to hospital with COVID-19 like symptoms). The Ruby Princess is the single largest source of COVID-19 cases in Australia to date, with at least 662 people linked to the cruise having been diagnosed with COVID-19 (more than 10% of Australia’s total cases).
Albeit the decision was the responsibility of the NSW health minister and health ‘experts’, the irony is not lost on those who have been listening to Peter Dutton and successive governments bang on about ‘stopping the boats’, nor is it lost on Indigenous Australians who experienced their first pandemic with the arrival of Captain Cook 250 years earlier.
artist • photographer • designer