Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Nick Cave Soundsuits

    From around 2011 Chicago based artist and educator Nick Cave has been occasionally creating what he calls soundsuits.  By taking the human form and abstracting it to it's ultimate base shapes, he takes us completely outside of ourselves when we view his work.  What makes this interesting from an Attire perspective, especially given my most recent post about the fear of clowns, is that, by taking the exaggerations and distortions to another level, we slip away from fearfulness, into a dreamlike state that allows joy and playfulness to enter into the discussion. 
    Cave's soundsuits are based on his own physiognomy.  But each one divorces the viewer entirely from sex, age, physicality, intellect, politics, and religions. We come to seeing sound suits in action as a purely sensual experience that has no reference to binary defined life, or to currently held notions of appropriateness.  We are allowed to simply, and purely, feel.

    Through volume, and choice of materials, his soundsuits clang, swish, shimmer, thud, rustle and click, all dependent on the motion of the body within. The abstraction is so total that any thought of threat is removed. We see no claws, mouths, or teeth to threaten. The face is entirely gone, replaced by, something other. It matters not a bit whose is the body inside, at least not superficially.  But think on this idea.  Imagine a performance piece where successively different random persons don a sound suit and move about in it. Each individual, even masked as completely as they are by the sound suit, will bring something unique, and unrepeatable to the performance.  Whether the wearer is older or younger, male or female, graceful or clumsy, deaf to music, or enlivened by it, each will bring an essential part of themselves to the experience that can not ever be accurately recreated by another.
    This essential notion is a center point to the entire Attire language idea. Each person, whoever they are, even dressed entirely identically, will contribute and express something subtly different by the wearing of the same clothing.
    What makes Nick Cave's art so very interesting to me as a proponent of Attire language, is that I would love us to get to a pure state where such a thing could be more commonly experienced, outside of the world of performance art. I acknowledge that I am a Pollyanna who wants the world to be a completely delightful place for everyone.  That said, when I see work like Mr Cave's, it gives me hope. I gives me hope that we can possibly get to a place like that, in time.

     Sure, we have a huge amount of rough terrain to tread to get there. We have so much to do to let go of our deeply ingrained sexism, ageism, body shaming, monetary and class distinctions, before we can get to that place, that it might seem to some an impossibility. But try we may, and to my mind, try we must. If we are going to move into a truly global world where nationalism no longer has a real place beyond an expression of heritage, then we must, perforce, consider dropping away the things that we have clung to that have kept us from it.
    It's not going to be easy, or short term to say goodbye to so many social constructs that we have considered to be unshakable parts of reality, but the world that is coming depends upon our letting go, and moving forward. I can only hope we have the courage and wisdom to do so. Until we can live there entirely, we have the work of brilliant visionary artists like Nick Cave to take us there for short spans of time, and that is a wonderful thing, indeed.  Enjoy these images, and I encourage you to go seek out more of his video, and imagery. 

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