Now through the fall, Detroit will become the backdrop for artist Nick Cave’s most ambitious project to date, including seven months of events and his first solo exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum, all funded by the Knight Arts Challenge. Here Cranbrook Curator Laura Mott writes about the launch of Cave’s exhibit at the museum, including his signature embellished costumes known as Soundsuits, which will be on display through Oct. 11.
Nick Cave: Here Hear lived up to its celebratory title last weekend with the exhibition opening at Cranbrook Art Museum, the launch of the publicationNick Cave: Greetings From Detroit, the film screening at the historic Redford Theatre, and performances at The Artist Village. Whew! Thanks to you Detroit, it was downright incredible.
The soundsuit invasion photo shoots we staged last spring with Detroit-based photographer Corine Vermeulen are now exquisitely compiled into the large format postcard book Nick Cave: Greetings From Detroit — offering portraits of Cave’s soundsuits in Detroit that complement the city’s ingenuity, creativity and energy. Also along for the photo shoots were Detroit-based filmmakers Jamin Townsley and Andrew Miller, known as The Right Brothers. They have created an extraordinary video composition of the soundsuits in motion and a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process that is currently on display in the Museum’s “Map In Action” room – a gallery devoted to tracking the project’s reach into the city of Detroit. The video composition is a masterpiece in its own right, and will continue to grow in length and content as the upcoming performances are staged. The amazing quality of both speaks to the creative talent that exists in our city.
You can see several of the soundsuits featured in the photo shoots, as well as many new creations, in the exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum, which has filled our galleries with Cave’s wearable sculptures. The exhibition is vibrant, colorful and accessible to all audiences, while still addressing deeper undertones related to race in America. In fact, Cave first created the soundsuits after the Rodney King beating in 1991, envisioning them as an emotional shield that could protect a person’s race or gender yet still express individuality. The exhibition includes Cave’s most recent sculptures that directly confront issues of black identity, including a new sculpture inspired by Trayvon Martin. I spoke to a guest who was standing in front of TM13, completely overwhelmed. She explained that as an African-American, she was feeling paralyzed by recent events (it was two days after the Charleston shooting), but in front of the sculpture she was able to think and grieve. Cave’s artwork has proven relevant and profound in the face of these tragedies, and it speaks to the psychological boundaries of society that have real, tragic consequences.
However, one of the most important themes of Nick Cave’s work is collective dreaming – this belief that our imaginations are the key to making a better reality. On June 21, we hosted an event in the city of Detroit to kick-off the performance series tied to this project. It was an incredible demonstration of this mission. The lower level of the Redford Theatre was filled to near capacity with residents from not only the Old Redford and Brightmoor communities, but the entire metro Detroit area. After screening several of Cave’s video works, the Gabriel Brass Band and dancers in soundsuits led the audience in a joyful procession to The Artist Village next door. Our community partner, Sidewalk Festival for Performing Arts, organized the energetic afternoon of dancers and performers, including the award-winning hip-hop duo Passalacqua and the fantastic Tunde Olaniran.
The entire event created an atmosphere of neighbors talking to neighbors, and this is the long-lasting effect of this project. New partners, new collaborators, new friendships – all coming together as we work to create a reimagined Detroit.
Director of Communications
Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum
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