Friday, 17 July 2009

Nick Cave's Soundsuits

Posted at the Jack Shainman Gallery

Every time I look at Nick Cave's work I come to life! I've known about him for a few years, and as soon as I saw these extraordinary pieces, my own work began to change. I've only ever seen his work online, and I'm sure to see them first hand would be a whole new love affair. There's so many references there, and a joyous sense of celebration.

When I was a child (and it still happens now), we had a carnival in our local town - when I say 'carnival' I mean a suburban south London version - sedate and non-participatory! Floats paraded through the streets and past the end of our road ending up in the local park - trucks and flatbeds decked out in tissue paper flowers, and all sorts of crafty attire with be-costumed folk waving out to the onlookers watching from the street. It was an annual ritual to go with my mum and grandma and watch and wave. The local May Queen always had a special float with a little throne and all her handmaidens in pretty matching dresses and flowery crowns. That's my heritage. It's low key but pervasive!

Posted at the Jack Shainman Gallery

Nick Cave occupies the other end of that spectrum with his soundsuits; exploding with movement, revelry, colour; making their own sounds through the extravagant gestures of the inhabitant. They talk about his own heritage and are unequivocally political. The acts of collecting, assembling, sewing, patching together is brilliantly resonant - in that process, these very physical, focused activities, there is a powerful ritual of re-possession.

Posted at the Jack Shainman Gallery

Having only seen the soundsuits in performance online, and mostly as still images, to me they are more like artifacts, and they do work perfectly on this level as well. They become more like museum pieces - bizarre ethnographic exhibits. This museum-like quality in itself becomes politically charged, touching on colonial notions of 'othering'. In that sense these gorgeous costumes constitute a riotous act of reclamation.
Throughout my life my mum has been a way-station for the second hand - our garage was the repository of stuff for a hundred jumble sales. I grew up with re-cycling running in my veins. Nick Cave has rounded up the glory of cast-offs and oddments and brought it to life in a carnival of colour and sound.
Nick Cave video here

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