Nick Cave: Social Installations

Nick Cave is a renowned multi-media performance artist, dancer and sculptor originally from Fulton, Missouri, who, now based in Chicago, is head of the graduate Fashion Programme at the Art Institute of Chicago. A prolific career sees the analysis of social issues recur as a focal interest, and, more specifically highlights the cause and effect of racism in America.

Until at MASS MoCA, continues this thematic strand with an unprecedented display of Soundsuits, which take the form of wearable fabric sculptures and are designed to leave the inhabitant devoid of race, sexuality, class and gender, ultimately encouraging the audience to view without judgement. The outfits are made up of found, recycled and charity shop bought objects such as masks, beads, plastic flowers and cloth, which reflect upon a modest upbringing, whilst becoming an auto-biography through an effort to transport the familiar into the fantastic. Both colour and design pave a conceptual pathway: the imagination can translate the ordinary without limitation, or indeed free anyone from their given contexts to a new, chosen identity.

Whilst social injustice stands as a common theme, the drive for this latest installation stems from the deaths of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown in police hands. Gun violence and its control policy, race relations, and gender politics all unravel in the vast gallery spaces, set against the notion of materialism. Bullets and targets are interwoven between colourful textiles and re-constituted objects, drawing up intriguing dialogues about the awareness of today’s public to the problems deeply embedded within the world around them. In total, over 10 miles of crystals, 16,000 wind spinners, 13 gilded pigs and 1 crocodile are included in Until, whose title is based on the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” in this case being “guilty until proven innocent,” a comment on the unjust nature of the killings.

As Cave notes, the installation works: “as an elaborate community forum, as much as a work of sculpture,” and aims for it to be used as a catalyst for discussion regarding global crises whilst housing musicians, dancers and poets.

Nick Cave, Until runs until August, MASS MoCA. For more information:

1. Installation view from Nick Cave’s Until at MASS MoCA. Courtesy of the gallery.