Nick Cave and the Soundsuit | Springfield Art Museum
Hi friends! I hope your week has been nice and it has not been as busy as mine. Earlier this week, I returned from a spur of the moment trip to Colorado Springs after finding out that the weather was too bad to go to Tennessee. I had a wonderful time hiking and enjoying the great outdoors, but I am still a bit exhausted, especially with school amping up for the final weeks of the semester. While I have had many things on my plate recently, I luckily got to spend some time at my local art museum with the ladies I intern for at the Arts Council.
The Springfield Art Museum currently has on exhibit a few works by the Midwest born, Nick Cave. The Springfield Art Museum strives to bring people knowledge about art and artists from Southwest Missouri, as well as the greater American Midwest region. I am always pleased to visit and was even more excited to go on a tour and learn about an artist I was unfamiliar with.
Nick Cave is a sculptor and performance artist who is most well known for his Soundsuits. A Soundsuit is a transformative garment which is made out of an assemblage of found objects. Many of the objects that are incorporated in the suits are objects in which Cave finds in thrift stores and antique malls. He likes to take an object that was once cherished and has now been abandoned and transform it into something new, giving that item a new purpose. The objects that are abandoned often used to hold some sort of value to an individual or as a commodity that many people remember having at one time or another. Objects, such as a wooden spinning top or an aluminum toy sound maker, perpetuate memories in individuals when they see it. In one of his Soundsuits that was on display in this exhibit, he incorporated a variety of woven “hobo” bags into an assemblage. I specifically remember having one of these woven bags with chunky sequins, when I was young and it brought back memories for me. While I would never want to bring these bags back in fashion, being able to see these bags reproduced in a new way brought back fond memories of adolescence and innocence.
There is a sort of whimsy and fun side to Nick Cave’s Soundsuits, but that is not the only message behind them. Cave’s first ever Soundsuit was roused by the happenings of the L.A. riots that happened after the beating of Rodney King in 1992. As the four officers were acquitted, people were outraged by the injustice that was served against this black man. Nick Cave, an African-American man himself, saw himself and others like him as outsiders who were not being valued in American society. He saw a stick on the ground and made a parallel between the discarded nature of the stick and African-Americans in America. As he collected more and more of these twigs and started forming them into a sculpture, he thought “what if I went inside of this sculpture”. After experimenting with the sculpture’s form and finally trying the piece on, he recognized the sounds that it made when he would move around in it. Thus the first Soundsuit was born and around 500 more would follow with their own unique appearance and sounds.
Many of the Soundsuits are large, heavy, and imposing and act almost as a suit of armor for the wearer. The identity of the individual within the garment is completely masked. Cave saw this as a sort of shelter where one could hide from the oppression they may face based on their identities, such as race or sexual orientation. Within the suit, no one can judge you for your skin color or how you may look on the surface.
These fabulous live sculptures are not just put on display to be gawked at within the museum space but are often used within performances. When people get into the outfits to perform in them, it gives the Soundsuits that have been established from a tragic past occurrence. Seeing the suits in action gives the audience a whole different perspective than when it is standing still on a mannequin. The Soundsuit in motion makes huge swooping motions which engulfs the whole space and makes unique and captivating sounds which draw people in. It is hard to resist dancing along as well when seeing the frantic motions that Nick Cave’s creations act out.
I did not have any prior knowledge of the artist, Nick Cave, before my visit to the temporary exhibit at the Springfield Art Museum. I am really glad that I got to follow a tour guide while going around this exhibit because I learned much more than I would have if I would have gone through it alone. I want to try to go on more tours when I visit certain exhibits because I know that the guides have more information than what the exhibit text can provide me.
Are you familiar with Nick Cave? If so, which is your favorite Soundsuit?