Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Nick Cave at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (2009)


Nick Cave

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Furry, wooly, hairy, jangly, bead-dazzled, be-doilied, glittery, godly Soundsuits by Nick Cave are on show at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in an exhibition called "Meet Me at the Center of the Earth."

Soundsuits are so-named for the sounds and music created when the sculptural, costume-like suits are worn and danced in. The Soundsuits are meant to be costumes in performance art.

Some suggest Hopi Kachinas or tribal shamanic ceremonial costume, while others (especially those covered in sequins) suggest campy, drag queen, over-the-top showpieces.

My favorite Soundsuit is the One Man Band Soundsuit, with musical instruments all over it. It’s hard to resist the urge to touch, especially the fun fur Soundsuits that look like giant plush Gumby dolls.

My favorite pieces, though, are not Soundsuits, but sculptures: life-sized bears and little beavers, whose pelts are made of cast-off sweaters pieced together. I also love Cave’s tapestries, representing the Universe, that hang on the walls and frame the exhibit. They are huge quilts made from glittery, sequined fabrics, all in midnight blues and blacks, accented with star-like silvery galaxies.

While it’s fun to see the riot of color, texture and the artist’s imagination on display in this show, there’s no question that we’re only getting a small part of the experience. Several videos are also included that show the Soundsuits worn, in motion and in performance.

This is how they are intended to be experienced, as part of performance art. All senses are meant to be used, and the Soundsuits are definitely not meant to be static and silent, but rather joyful, exuberant, celebrations of the dance of life.

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