Museum of the Rapture: Douglas Coupland Wants Bits and Pieces of You

Brenna Clarke Gray

Staff Writer

Part muppet and part college faculty member, Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature while simultaneously holding two cats named Chaucer and Swift. It's a juggling act. Raised in small-town Ontario, Brenna has since been transported by school to the Atlantic provinces and by work to the Vancouver area, where she now lives with her stylish cyclist/webgeek husband and the aforementioned cats. When not posing by day as a forserious academic, she can be found painting her nails and watching Degrassi (through the critical lens of awesomeness). She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Blog: Not That Kind of Doctor Twitter: @brennacgray

What is the intersection between you and not-you?

Is your shirt you?  Your nail polish?  Your contact lenses?  Are your dental fillings you?  What about your artificial knee, your pacemaker, the stitches in your arm, or your tattoos?  What about the meal you just ate?

If you were raptured tomorrow, what would go with you to the pearly gates and what would stay here as part of your earthly remains?  After decades of life and medical intervention and body modification, where does the you end and the not-you begin?

That’s a lot of questions, and Douglas Coupland wants to start answering them by starting with you and the bits and pieces of yourself you might not need anymore.  He’s building a Museum of the Rapture, and he needs your help.  More about it here:


It’s likely that as literature-loving Book Rioters, you know Coupland best as the novelist who penned contemporary classics like Generation X and Microserfs; many Canadians also know him for his recent forays into discussions of Canadian culture like the Souvenir of Canada project, his recent Massey Lecture, or his biography of Marshall McLuhan.  This literary Coupland is accomplished and productive, certainly, but there’s another Coupland who you may be less aware of — Coupland the visual artist.

From large scale public memorials to an intimate examination of the role of the Penguin novel in his own life (Rioters will love that one), Douglas Coupland’s visual art is eclectic and exciting.  But this Museum of the Rapture is something else again.  Rioters who know and love Coupland’s fiction are used to the significant role of the apocalypse in his prose — Girlfriend in a Coma features it, as does Generation A — but this project also syncs with another common Coupland theme.  How do we make meaning in a secular world?  This is a very secular reading of the rapture, and as Coupland says in the video is about creating something sacred and awesome, but interestingly out of the most earthly and perhaps profane parts of ourselves (or not-selves).

I find this project exciting on a personal level; I think the secular sacred is a really important space for art to emerge and I wonder about its potential impact on our understanding of what makes us human.  Though I love that this is a crowdsourced project, on a visceral level I cannot imagine soliciting such items — I would be terrified to open the mailbox — but I’m looking forward to the big reveal next fall.

What do you think, Rioters?  Gross?  Cool?  Sacred?  Profane?  I can’t stop thinking about this project and I’d love to know what you think, too.

Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature and teaches in the Vancouver area.  She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Follow her on Twitter: @mittenstrings