Garments hang over chairs at St Giles Cathederal

Work by Thulani Rachia features in new exhibition at the Bluecoat

Work first commissioned by Associate Artist Tako Taal at Edinburgh Art Festival 2021 has been newly imagined for a commission at the Bluecoat, Liverpool, forming part of an exhibition about the UK’s oldest art centre.

breathe, spirit and life 呼吸、靈魂與生命, a is an exhibition of six artists; including Soojin Chang (in collaboration with Georgie Rei-n Lo, Jade O’Belle, and Aditya Surya Taruna a.k.a. Kasimyn), Sulaïman Majali, Thulani Rachia, Roo Dhissou, Kiara Mohamed Amin and Emii Alrai; curated by guest curator, Katherine Ka Yi Liu 廖加怡.

The exhibition takes the Bluecoat’s site history, originally a charity school for children in poverty built in 1716-17 with proceeds from the Transatlantic slave trade, as its starting point.

Referencing Keith Piper’s peer support curatorial strategy in the group exhibition, Trophies of Empire (Bluecoat,1992), breathe, spirit and life  呼吸、靈魂與生命 repurposes the gallery as a communal space for  cleansing, detoxification and purification as a collective decolonial healing process. Together, the artists explore ideas in relation to Taoist practice of self-cultivation, meditation, rituals, and harmony with nature.

Working through the legacies of the Apartheid regime and colonial rule, Rachia’s work investigates how the built environment carries this history and shapes contemporary social relationships.

Rachia will be sharing an iteration of performance project, obuyile, a composition for four cellists. Bringing together a collection of melodies composed by the artist as they adjusted and settled into a range of different cities around the world, obuyile expresses a difficulty in articulating the brutality of the built environment and the inherent violent histories held in historically established architectures.

The first staging of obuyile took the form of an installation in St Giles Cathedral animated by regular performances. For this iteration at the Bluecoat, seven days of composition are shared through 7 video works. The performers’ garments are hung on music stands, just as they were in the Edinburgh installation during the moments when the performers were not present. The garments have been designed by Rachia in collaboration with Asia Przytarska, with motifs and colour hand-drawn and mixed by Rachia. The elements form notations of a dream he had which inspired this project.

Rachia’s new body of work draws on the psychological therapeutic impact of sound by creating an active dialogue between architecture, trauma, dreaming and composition.

obuyile was first commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival in 2021 by Tako Taal with support from the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund and EventScotland. For this new commission, Rachia has created an additional six video works with Rachel McBrinn and Daniel Hughes.

breathe, spirit and life 呼吸、靈魂與生命 continues until Sunday 29 January 2023. Entry is free.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a live programme of events, details of which will be announced on the Bluecoat’s website.

breathe, spirit and life 呼吸、靈魂與生命 is supported and funded by John Ellerman Foundation, Arts Council England , Liverpool City Council and Foyle Foundation.