Friday, the 27th, was my birthday. As I was to spend the day alone, and not looking forward to this, I decided to travel to Seattle to see an exhibit that I had read about and knew was ending soon. So I made the drive on the 26th, spent the night and took in the museum the next day. It was absolutely AMAZING!! And I am so happy that I made the effort to go see it. Sometimes in life, it takes extra effort and inconvenience to do something, but if it is rare and special and promises inspiration, I will often go to the trouble to engage myself.
Let me tell you about the artist, Nick Cave who is responsible for these creations and this exhibit of “Soundsuits”. He calls himself “trans-artist working between sculpture, installation, performance, video, designed objects and fashion.” Since 1989 he has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently Chairman of the Fashion Department. His vision, talent, deep and ever-evolving insight and self-expression is so impressive and for me, very touching and real and absolutely magical.
Nick has performed around the world in his Soundsuits, and in one room of the museum are three screens showing Nick dancing and performing in his creations. I had a hard time sitting still. I wanted to get up and dance around with him in my common and boring street clothes. If only I could have donned one of his Soundsuits and let go of all inhibitions and just been truly my dancing, hidden vibrant self for one moment in time!
We were not allowed to take photographs, so disappointing as the Soundsuits were beyond anything you could ever imagine, spectacular! But as I sat on a bench in this one room, trying to not get up and join the dance on the screens, I took out my cell phone and clicked a few images of that moment in time……that very, very special moment in time.
Here is what Nick Cave says about the Soundsuits: “What is interesting about wearing these pieces is that your identity is erased. The sense of freedom and independence is so extraordinary – and the sense of allowing yourself to be that much more expressive.”
Of course, I have always known what is wrapped up in the clothes we wear, how we present ourselves to the world, what we convey. Are we sheep? Are we original? Are we in touch with exactly who we are? And if we know who we are, do we know from one day to the next how this idea will or can change? If only I owned a variety of Soundsuits!
But for Nick Cave, the embodiment of a Soundsuit is a magnification of so much more than any transitory experience. He says, “I am interested in working with objects that are taken for granted, laughed at or deemed less precious, yet have a certain insignificance in themselves….I was raised with a single mother and seven brothers; we all had hand-me-downs, there was not a lot in terms of surplus or art supplies.” He goes on to say, “I was always working with found materials….somehow you have to create your own identity through dress—-I might cut off the sleeves of a shirt or make a substitute for a pair of pants. You have to find your own voice in an environment that is limited in terms of resources.”
I spent nearly four hours watching, reflecting, going back viewing, and writing in this notebook thoughts I had, things I was reading, and quotes from Nick Cave. To say I was moved and caught up in the whole stage and theater of it is an understatement. It was, for me, an interactive exhibit. I could not tear myself away. When I went to the gift shop to buy the catalog of the exhibit, I was told that it had already sold out. Later, when I tried to order it from Amazon, I was informed that they were having to do another printing. I am not the only one with strong emotions over this art by Nick Cave. I think we all want to dance in the streets in our own unique Soundsuits, although many, maybe the majority, would never want to admit this fantasy. I think we would all be healthier human beings if we could embrace this individual dance of life.
When I was getting my degree in English, I had to take a literary criticism course and was introduced to the writings of Michel Foucault, the French philosopher. In the exhibit was a quote from him that seems to explain why people are so drawn to the fantastic elements and drama of this exhibit. Foucault says, “I dream of a new age of curiosity. We have the technical means for it; the desire is there; the things to be known are infinite; the people who can employ themselves at this task exist. Why do we suffer? From too little – from channels that are too narrow, skimpy, quasi-monopolistic, insufficient. There is no point in adopting a protectionist attitude, to prevent ‘bad’ information from invading and suffocating the ‘good’. Rather we must multiply the paths and the possibility of comings and goings.”
These Soundsuits are described as “full-body masks that release the wearer (actual or illusory) from his day-to-day reality, allowing him [or her sic] to inhabit another, very different one.”
Essentially Nick Cave “invites us to dance, play, and to dream with the empowerment of expressive transformation.”