The Righteous Art of Nick Cave

The Righteous Art of Nick Cave

Two years ago I spent a long weekend in western Massachusetts and took a day trip to MASS MoCA, the colossal contemporary art museum in an old brick factory building in North Adams. I wandered into gallery five, which is about the size of a football field. Hanging from the ceiling was a shimmering forest of gossamer strings dangling what looked like 20,000 reflective wind chimes, all spinning. It was beautiful. Then I looked up close at one of the wind-chime things and realized it was a silvery cutout of a handgun. And for a little while I forgot to breathe.

That was my first Nick Cave moment. Cave—the 60-year-old visual artist, not to be confused with the Aussie songwriter—had spent the better part of a year working to put together this massive installation, titled “Until,” as in guilty until proven innocent. As in: the way police treat black men and women. I was having trouble with basic respiratory function because, as a white visitor, I could tell that I was implicated. What role have I personally played in the perpetuation of racism and violence? A good question to ask—not one I’ve been able to fully answer. But exactly the one Cave wanted me puzzling over.

Cave’s role as an arbiter of public conversation—as an asker of difficult questions—goes back to 1992, when he made his first Soundsuit in the aftermath of Rodney King’s beating by LAPD officers. It was a wearable sculpture, a suit of armor made of discarded twigs. A noisy garment that stripped its wearer of race, sex, class, everything, forcing the viewer to assess this being without any prejudgment. “My practice revolves around uplifting and reifying otherwise distressed bodies, which is the core purpose of the Soundsuit,” Cave said in an interview. Since then he’s taken iterations of the Soundsuits around the world in every sense of the phrase, from a participatory dance residence at the Park Avenue Armory in NYC last summer to a performance put together by hundreds of people living in Shreveport, Louisiana, many of them in transitional housing. And as heartbreaking and unsettling as his work is thematically, it’s always a visual and aural feast.

That’s the thing. Cave’s sense of justice is contagious. And he has style. Earlier in June, he wore a leather kilt and some Margiela boots to Virgil Abloh’s first art show. When I asked him about the outfit, he said, “It’s not a statement about anything. It’s not about a queer point of view. It’s about: This is what I like to wear. And sometimes that’s Converse sneakers, some damn blue jeans, and a T-shirt.” Few people are better situated to talk about the fluid boundaries between art and fashion, straddling, as Cave does, both of those rarefied worlds. That’s part of why we wanted to include him in’s Pride Week coverage.

I spoke with Cave about all of these things—plus his new 24,000-square-foot art space in Chicago, Facility.


Source : Benjy Hansen-Bundy Link

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