Nick Cave’s Until was on view at MASS MoCA in 2017. Three years ago, the museum’s curator Denise Markonish invited Cave to show in the notorious Building 5 at MASS MoCA, a cavernous space as long as a football field, but her invitation came with a caveat: no Soundsuits. Courtesy of Shreveport Regional Arts Council. Art21 is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization; all donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Although they pass through me, I don’t feel connected to them, in a certain sense. MB: I have a friend who’s a musician and he has these concerts—we did a profile on him in the last issue—and they’re a fun and crazy environment, and they’re really free. Cave was sitting in a park, feeling vulnerable and cast aside, when he saw a discarded twig on the ground. The amount of people who turn their backs on situations they’ve witnessed and then go out to dinner. opens at Akron Art Museum – showcasing some of the artist’s most iconic bodies of work, including his signature soundsuits. Why Artist Nick Cave Is Commanding the Spotlight Globally The creative multi-hyphenate speaks with AD about mastering sculpture, performance, installations, and the zeitgeist By Brook Mason I’m horrible at it. It’s frightening, but you can’t look away. I’ve been looking for a building for about five years. You would never know that. And I’d be hiding out for four months, just embarrassed and deflated. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS en concert : Ses textes, pétris de références bibliques et peuplés de personnages inquiétants, et sa musique, qui puise aux sources du blues, du gospel et du rock'n'roll, forment le socle d'une oeuvre dont la richesse foisonnante et la cohérence presque étouffante fascinent. We have about ten performers that will present or perform in the space through the duration of the show. Resistance can be about taking a positive kind of approach, and I sort of created “The Let Go” as a form of resistance. We need places to go where we can just surrender to the environment that we’re experiencing. NC: I remember being in Times Square when I was 35, 40, thinking, “If only I could have these monitors.” But that’s the amazing thing about life—it’s about dreaming. The Soundsuits became integral parts of Cave’s practice, and this original experience also awakened a sense of civic responsibility in the artist. MB: I definitely saw that in “The Let Go” with Jorell Williams and the Sing Harlem Choir. You’ve stated that you’d like your art to function as a form of diplomacy. It’s gotten me to understand who I am. So it was really about stripping down one’s identity and building oneself. NC: Yeah, it’s happening again and I think right now… I’m just one person, you know? NC: I sit in silence every day. You’ve said that you look for a sense of humility in the objects and materials you use in your sculptures. I first came across your work when I was a teenager, at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston. Not even college. And I’m in the studio… you know, Trayvon, it goes on and on. Interview by Stanley Nelson at the artist’s studio in Chicago on December 15, 2015. MB: Right. This interview originally appeared in the print edition of RAIN magazine in the fall of 2018. It’s an amazing feat to be consumed by consumerism and the insanity. There was a time when I wouldn’t sell a Soundsuit unless it was performed, because I wanted that history there, I wanted them to be connected to something. MB: [Texas] is such a strange place. And that was a transformative thing, and I thought of the title, “The Let Go”—is that one of the things you’re trying to highlight, that people should let go of these ideas of identity? Artist Nick Cave discusses creating his first Soundsuit in 1992 in response to the Rodney King beating. It’s interesting because, with an artist like Matthew Barney, his films are kind of the works, and then if there’s a prop from the film, some collector will scoop it up. In spite of everything that’s happening, I can take control over my destiny and respond to these horrific concerns. But it’s never been that I was interested in fashion as a pathway, or dance as a pathway. I’ll sit on those stairs they have there in Times Square… I love going there at midnight. Could you talk about how your art is a part of the healing process for issues like gun violence and racial injustice in this country? NC: No, not really. Lives matter, not just Black lives. It’s kinda crazy. Interview by Mark Benjamin. Shreveport is a border town at the crossroads of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. This is interesting. And now I’m like, “Oh, damn. And I’m adopted, so I don’t really know. You mentioned “Until” earlier—it started at MASS MoCA, right? NC: I know. Trouvez les Nick Cave Artist images et les photos d’actualités parfaites sur Getty Images. It’s much more grounded and rooted in something that has more meaning. But from the pictures it looks very different and almost like stepping into your brain. You find that you’re not alone, going through this experience. The Missouri native and his team assemble thrift … The official website for Nick Cave, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Grinderman. But for some reason, I was like, “I gotta get up and face the truth. I graduated from high school in 2009, but it was a very homophobic environment and it was very… That still lingers, to the point where I’m a very different person if I go back now. Sep 9, 2011. “Until” is somewhere else in the world and it’s there for ever. NC: Exactly. Like, “The Let Go” lives somewhere for ever, and it’s performed for ever. Photo by James Prinz, courtesy of MASS MoCA. And that this experience had given them permission to be who they need to be was just everything. Cave shares his thoughts on pipe cleaners and fashion week, and invites everyone to come to his playground. But it was not something I really thought about. NC: So, I’m looking at the dualities of the ways of looking at objects, looking at environments, looking at relics and thinking, “Wow.” So it’s even more powerful now that I can understand [an object’s] role in society. You have talked about how the first Soundsuit changed you as an artist and how you began to embrace the idea of civic responsibility. I’m sort of in hiding when I go home, because I can’t bear to see anyone. That whole project came out of, I think it was Freddie Gray had just [died]. These are the sorts of things that allowed me to look at that and go, “OK, you can have a successful career.” It wasn’t really until graduate school and probably toward the end of my graduate studies where I was like, “Oh.” It’s not like you leave this creative world of school with a manual of how to do it… That doesn’t exist. NC: It opens in November, I think. You’re classically trained as a fashion designer, right? I’ll never forget it—it was a shiny pink suit with tambourine-like symbols on it. I just thought, “Wow, this is amazing. MB: It was pretty crazy for me to see that visually. I’m excited. And if you do not give it [time], that becomes undeveloped. That’s how I’m able to take this collective group and walk into this dream. Nick Cave Nick Cave artist page: interviews, ... April 17, 2003 • Nick Cave made a lot of noise in the post-punk era of the 1980s with his previous band, The Birthday Party. It’s scary, it’s frightening, it’s dark, yet there’s something that is other about it. Eventually you come to this landscape of mountains made of beaded camouflage nets. NC: “The Let Go” came before the Park Armory. We operate in a very different way. Born in Fulton, Missouri, in 1959, the artist Nick Cave has been meticulously building a language, a vernacular, of symbolism, artifact, and ritual. NC: Exactly. Photography by James Prinz. I’m also excited to stand back and watch how Until will deliver itself to viewers. I think it’s every night at 11.45. NC: And it really is just based on pure leaps of faith and just fear. And it may not be something that occurs right away, it could happen 5 to 10 years afterwards. Nick Cave, Until (2016) installation view, MASS MoCA. And I’ve been sitting in silence for decades because, as a creative person, you’re the judge of the time you’re alone. How does the question, “Is there racism in heaven?” connect to the show’s title, Until? So there’s always this very dark, underlying message that is—. You can only imagine and hope for that. You flatten as you go. I’m not stressed ever. When I go home for Christmas, I have couple of brothers who still live in Missouri and they’re like, “So-and-so wants to see you.” And I’m like, “No. I can be working in the studio sometimes and then I’m bawling—just a disaster. I’m moving to my studio in probably a couple of weeks, so it’s a bit hectic, as you can imagine. So that’s how MASS MoCA came about. This world. It’s getting that to video, and all the data. NC: It’s been magnificent to develop and to work within communities and find ways of being proactive in using art as vehicle for change. I need everything on one floor, and just a different kind of experience. {{watchlist.lookupAttr('runtime', video);}}, “I wanted to put the viewer into the metaphorical belly of a ‘, “I feel called to action, and I’m trying to find a way, as a visual artist with a specific sense of responsibility, to be proactive”, “You cannot walk through the space without sharing what you’re experiencing. The installation opens with this kinetic force composed of sixteen thousand wind spinners. NICK CAVE: Hi, I'm Nick Cave, a visual artist, speaking at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I’m North African and Italian, but I never really thought anything of it. I can only present a project, but then I’m thinking, “OK, now who are my ambassadors who can also filter this information out into the world, into the communities and be proactive in that way?”. MB: That makes a lot of sense, and I feel it all the time. NC: We could all go together, how about that? I took a number of classes to understand the principles of the construction of a garment. But that’s not really important. Nick Cave is a contemporary African-American artist and dancer known for his unique fabric sculptures and performances. And at the same time, with the choir, with these kids who have never… who didn’t even know that the armories existed… to be able to stand on that stage and to look around and think, “We’re performing here.”. We turn our backs against it. The floor is reflective, intensifying the presence of the wind spinners. So when I was watching “The Let Go,” this process of all of these components being brought out to all these normal people, dancers, and then being equipped with all of these…. Cave—the 60-year-old queer visual artist, ... which is the core purpose of the Soundsuit,” Cave said in an interview. But for the most part, I’m underground, producing and trying to come up with the next project and developing that, and then I present it to the world. Cave was sitting in a park, feeling vulnerable and cast aside, when he saw a discarded twig on the ground. NC: I never thought that I would have such a flourishing career. Cave points to gun violence and racism in this country as the driving forces for his wearable sculptures. What happens when textiles meet modern dance all dressed up in a "Sound Suit?" I am so much more open—I see differently, I experience life differently, and that’s a beautiful thing. In addition to the value is this vast library of video works and performance works. Its formality is based there, but there’s a higher reason for the delivery. I went there because there was a professor I wanted to continue working with, Professor Spear. MB: Well, you might even celebrate it. There’s an artist friend of mine, he’s of Japanese descent in New York, and we were at an after-party for an art show and he asked me, “When you look in a mirror, what do you see as your identity?” And I was kinda floored because I’d never thought about it, and it never felt important because people… People only recently—when I moved to New York—have started asking me about my ethnic background, something they might not ask somebody who’s Caucasian or something like that. Not in that sense, but I dream. I’ve been called to do this work. NC: Oh yeah, totally. I had to let everything go that was in my life—relationships, people—in order to see if this was possible. I can’t.” Because I’m just not… I don’t know what we have in common, I don’t know how to identify with friends I went to high school with who have chosen to stay in Columbia. It’s incredible. Standing up to fear is how I was able to… and just gambling my ass off, too. MB: Yeah. How can I create a project that will reach hundreds of thousands of people and raise their level of consciousness about these issues? The way I work is that I’m pretty quiet until I’m ready to hit. At that point, you’ve gone through the entire installation, and there’s a moment of [feeling cleansed and quieted]. MB: Right, because even a collector doesn’t really own it. I think you’re right, it’s a great time for people to sit and reflect on—. NC: Yeah, that was part of it, and also, I was raised in a single-parent family. I’m more into volume, and the alternative ways of helping this vast world via communities through this art experience. Cave created these armored vessels as a reaction to Rodney King’s beating in 1991. NC: Well, that’s the whole idea. The moment you understand why you’re doing it, and the influence that you can have through what you’re doing as a creative being, then it all makes sense. NC: Yeah. Nick Cave created his first Soundsuit after the Rodney King beating in 1992. I’m telling you, there were times when I was like, “Oh my God, I can’t… this isn’t working.” But there was something bigger— bigger than me. As I’ve gotten older, seeing your work has turned more into intrigue and curiosity, and also more celebration. Is that something that just strikes you? MB: Yeah. It’s like you can let go in them. NC: I just never close the store—it took about 10 years for it to really take form. MB: I can relate to that feeling, for sure. I gotta get back in the game.” So that’s what I did. My mind races like crazy. All Rights Reserved. Then, with yours, it’s the reverse—the performance is front and center. Again, I’m doing all I can to bring [communities] together in these mass quantities and… Like with Park Armory, we worked with more than 100 social services that occupied the armories daily. Because you’ve said that you want to flatten class and race, and all of these aspects disappear with the suits. Later he fabricated a symbolic suit of armor, using hundreds of collected twigs. MB: I still feel that when I go from New York to Texas. Feeling that there’s nothing else, and I have to get back up and get back in the game. MB: Right. NC: While I was in school there, there was this junior high school that we occupied, so we each had this amazing studio. And to be able to selectively create this environment occupied by this moving curtain called Chase, and that curtain was designed with one side red, black, green, followed by blue, black. And then I was exposed to living artists. It’s me looking at black-on-black crime. So I’m in the studio and I’m thinking about all of this, and what popped into my mind was, “Is there racism in heaven?”. And I think if we were to sit in silence, if the world could sit in silence every day for one hour, I think we would live in a different world. Rather, I feel like I’m the one who has been chosen to deliver them. I was working in creative environments, but internally… I wasn’t happy. MB: That sounds great. MB: That’s awesome. NC: So, I find working in this very fluid way allows enough sensibility to remain. But it’s just me trying to work through it and trying to bring understanding to why. This is great.” Which I think is what you wanted to achieve. NC: Well, I’ve always seen it as both. My father died when I was 17 and wasn’t really that available when he was here. I’m living in fear, emotionally. I grew up in Houston, and you went to school in North Texas, right? Tomorrow (Saturday, February 23) the new exhibition Nick Cave: Feat. There is darkness all the way through, but there are also moments of extreme glory. What is your responsibility to an audience, as a contemporary artist? What strange culture, what strange people?”, what kind of crazy things do you think might be going through their mind? You were first inspired by Rodney King and his beating in 1991, right? Related Artist Nick Cave Talks About Surrendering to the Sacred I don’t know. So the thing about “The Let Go” and working with these individuals, it was these testimonies that these kids were willing to share. Where it serves the community in some aspects? Save videos to watch later, or make a selection to play back-to-back using the autoplay feature. MB: Right. And it’s really whether or not we can step up to fear. MB: Amazing. MB: That’s also something that interested me—your works are never really just you. Art and Law Artist Nick Cave’s Controversial Upstate New York Artwork Has Found a New Home at the Brooklyn Museum. MB: Right. NC: I don’t dream a lot. I want something a lot more cohesive, where transitions are easy. And I had to pack up and move on. Nick Cave is widely acclaimed for his exuberant “Soundsuits”—wearable sculptural forms based on the human body, intricately composed out of a vibrant assortment of second-hand materials. It has gotten me to face who I am. I’m taking a stance. MB: Hey, if that’s the entrance plan, I’m glad. NC: Exactly. Because when it opens will be the first time I’ve seen it. NC: I can’t even imagine a high-school reunion. Dancers were transformed into colorful beings in a magical and ritualistic performance of singing and dancing, while streamers several stories tall became mobile as the event transformed into an interactive party. I was like, “I gotta get out of here. MB: Maybe not classically, but fashion was your initial interest, right? And no defining that through any particular [thing], but just what is your self-hood, what is that made up of, and how do you prove that? For example, I found seventeen Black lawn jockeys. I think I’m a messenger first and an artist second. Nick Cave: Meet Me At The Center Of The Earth January 10 – May 30, 2010. And you’re just trying to make things, and you just need isolation to do that. It’s police shootings, it’s BBQ Becky, discrimination…. Chicago’s my incubator—it allows me to experiment and test out ideas. NC: What I would like the future to look like is I would love to be able to create these projects, these dream projects, where they are permanent. We spoke with Cave at his home base of Chicago, Illinois, about his life’s work and practice. [The beating was a sign] for me to take responsibility. This interview originally appeared in the print edition of RAIN magazine in the fall of 2018. The public artwork has been attacked by … I feel like I’m protected only in the privacy of my own space; the moment that I walk out of my home, I can be profiled, and I am looked at very differently. NC: What’s been interesting in the past five years is that I’ve had the “studio-away-from-home studio”. View Nick Cave’s 55 artworks on artnet. For the MASS MoCA show, I wanted to put the viewer into the metaphorical belly of a Soundsuit. Once I came to terms with that, the art thing became very different for me. I’m moving into a smaller place that will allow everythingto operate on one floor. And it’s gotten me clear. And, in fact, my most recent two exhibitions at Jack Shainman Gallery did not contain any Soundsuits. When I first saw [the suit], I never thought about any of the connotations of the creation of the Soundsuits. With that optimism in mind, you’ve described yourself as a messenger who brings people together to heal through art. Photography by James Prinz. NC: Well, they used this program where it’s midnight—I’m not sure what it’s called—and they invite artists to do video work. “It’s amazing how something so profound can literally shift your direction of thinking and making,” he says.He made a bodysuit that covered the wearer head to toe in sticks and twigs. 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