North Adams, MA
If you think you know Nick Cave, think again. The artist celebrated for his wearable sculptures called Soundsuits turns expectations inside out at MASS MoCA in a massive immersive installation, where not a single Soundsuit will be found. Instead, Cave uses MASS MoCA’s signature football field-sized space to create his largest installation to date, made up of thousands of found objects and millions of beads, which will make viewers feel as if they have entered a rich sensory tapestry, like stepping directly inside the belly of one of his iconic Soundsuits.
The exhibition will also be used as a performance space. Conceived as a one-year concatenation of community events, music, theater, and art, Until incorporates special appearances by dancers, singer-songwriters, pop artists, poets, and composers, together with panel discussions, community forums, and other forms of creative public debate and engagement.
Often seen as celebrations of movement and material, the first Soundsuit, made out of twigs, was a direct response to the Rodney King beating, a visual image about social justice that was both brutal and energizing. Just as the violence of the Rodney King beating was the impetus to Cave’s early work, the death of men such as Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown drive his new imagery. For Cave’s new MASS MoCA installation, Until—a double play on the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” or in this case, perhaps, “guilty until proven innocent”—Cave addresses issues of gun violence, gun control policy, and race relations in America today.
Until begins with a dense sculptural field of metallic lawn ornaments leading to a crystal cloud topped by a private garden populated with birds, flowers, and black-face lawn jockeys, finally coming to rest before a cliff wall constructed of millions of plastic pony beads. This is an active space where alluring kinetics and a sumptuous materiality are suddenly punctuated by images of guns, bullets, and targets, positioning us all as culpable, vulnerable, and potentially under attack. The aim of this is pointed, sparking discussion about important issues in a space that is at once dazzling, provocative, and—ultimately—optimistic. Cave believes in humanity, celebrating possibility while also creating a forum for sharp debate and critical discussion.
“I view this work as a theater set, or an elaborate community forum, as much as a work of sculpture,” he notes. This is Nick Cave from the inside out, on a grand theatrical scale.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website