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Achieve Spiritual Transcendence Through 90s Rave Culture

Summoning community with Hilary White’s new performance piece, 'REST.'
March 11, 2016, 3:40pm
The Spirit in between pieces of the REST installation. Photo by Josh Hobson.

Encompassing a vibrant, reflective aesthetic, Hilary White strives to create a communal experience around her experiential happenings, with a rhythmic cycle mimicking rituals. With the desire to create physical manifestations of healing, White’s practice extends from 2D sculptures to installations and now performance with her latest piece, REST.

“The desire to create REST was to find a way to directly work with the community. My sculptural pieces work with the individual on a more intimate level and the inner dialog is limited based on what is seen. The separation of time, space, cultural landscape, are very evident in these kinds of displays because the artifact is removed from it's original purpose and perhaps taken out of context. I wanted to put the pieces back into context, in a space that could reflect how they might operate in the spiritual dimension of a heavenly realm,” White tells The Creators Project.

The Spirit character in the new installation/performance REST by artist Hilary White. Photo by Josh Hobson.

White's holographic neon work makes a seamless transition from sculptural wall pieces to reflective, vibrant costumes. "I used to attend raves in the late 90s and was really attracted to the style and kind of integrated it into my hodgepodge of fashion cues. In other words, I was figuring myself out.” White recalls, “When thinking about how I was going to go about integrating symbols that relate to my specific faith in a communal way, I was thinking of other formats that integrate the spiritual experience with community and put the two together. The rave scene is an open-source experience referencing the spiritual in a non-direct way. REST is utilizing the rave format as a creative and nonverbal way to interact with community, and share an experience of being in the "living body" of community, a place that promotes wholeness and wonder.

The REST experience lasts around three hours for those lucky enough to experience it in person, though it will also be documented and archived online. “The cycle contains performative gesture and sound for an extended period of time and then a transitional period in the space happens representing a merging of the spiritual and the physical realm to create the dance area which will be open for free exchanges of expression through movement otherwise known as ‘booty shakin’.” White says, “REST stands for "Relational Expressions of Spiritual Transcendence" kind of going off the rave movements acronym PLUR meaning ‘peace, love, unity, respect.'"

The three characters in REST: The Spirit, The Prophet and The Spirit. Photo by Josh Hobson.

White’s work comes from an otherworldly, spiritual place and activates symbolic terms and biblical passages, yet she clarifies, “When I hear the word ‘religious,’ I tend to cringe. For me it conjures up notions of hypercritical, self-righteous, or exclusive behavior. I know that's also true for a lot of people, but to quote the great rap artist known as Tupac Shakur, ‘Only God can judge me.’" White recalls, “When I really became serious about my art practice I knew I wanted to create physical manifestations of the healing experience through art making. I see hope in that.”

“The costumes represent two realms: the spiritual and the physical,” White explains. “The Spirit characters are angelic beings. The Prophet character is a human that interacts with the two realms as well but whose origin is the physical or earth. The inspiration for both came from biblical text, describing the interactions with the ‘heavenly’ vibrant color and a place of no shadow.”


White continues, “The term 'rest' really began to resonate with me the more I meditated on it. Communities of love promote rest, and by that I don't mean rest as in sleep, but rest as in relief, relief from fear, relief from poverty, relief from pain, relief from loneliness, relief from inequality, relief from having to be anything or anyone else but you.”

The Prophet. Photo by Josh Hobson.

Hilary prepping the costumes for the photo shoot. Photo by Josh Hobson.

Musicians involved are ShaRa Lunon, JP Wright (Ghost Fields), Alexander Crook (Masune), and DeVonderick Johnson of Black Galaxy Entertainment.

Hilary White’s REST installation will happen at the Gary R. Libby Gallery at the University of Florida on March 11th. Gallery Protocol in Gainsville, FL. will host a smaller version of REST March 18th, with more locations to be announced.


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