Nick Cave’s Soundsuits

No, not that Nick Cave. This is the work of a Chicago-based Nick Cave, whose soundsuits, seen here, focus on the fusion between fiber textile art and modern dance to create manifestations of the wearer’s physical energy. Cave’s shamanistic soundsuits have been described in the Boston Phoenix as “lavish, strange, beautifully-crafted outfits resembling mash-ups of African tribal ceremonial dress, Ku Klux Klan robes, Roman Catholic clergy vestments, yetis, Star Wars aliens, plumed and sequined carnival costumes, and fabulous drag queen gowns.” In an interview with Greg Cook, Cave poignantly describes the moment he created his first soundsuit:

When the Rodney King incident happened. I was reading in the paper about how the police sort of brought description to him. You know they were talking about, I can’t remember exactly what it said, but they were talking about this big, black, male figure that was bigger than life, that was mammoth-like. And I just started thinking about these words that were describing this human being, and I was like, “This is just fucking insane to me.” And I realized at that point I needed to take a different responsibility, I need to recognize that this is the platform that I need to be delivering, to work on.

And my first “Soundsuit” was a twig-suit. Which I didn’t even know it was a “Soundsuit.” I was just sort of making a piece in response to that situation. So I gathered all these twigs in the park and made this suit. I wasn’t even thinking that I could get into it. That wasn’t even on my brain. And then I made it and then I put it on. And I was just like, “Oh. My. God.” And at that point I knew that I had, you know you just know when you’ve found it. And I just knew. And I thought, “Oh, God, am I ready to take on all of this right now.” Because I just knew that it was a sculpture, it was again this suit of armor, it was this sort very unfamiliar sort of territory that I wasn’t really quite sure what it meant. Still don’t know really. Then there was performance. So it’s all of these sort of things. In order to be heard, to have a voice, you need to be an activist.

There are some wonderful high-res images of the soundsuits over at the LOUDreams blog, and there’s also a short YouTube clip of Cave talking about his work.

12 Responses to “Nick Cave’s Soundsuits”

  1. Chris Lowrance Says:

    I was gonna say, those are too cheery to be the other Nick Cave’s. Not enough rust.

  2. joseph Says:

    Thank you for your link back to It’s one word though, if that can be corrected please…

  3. Zoetica Says:

    Fixed, Joseph!

  4. Dave L. Says:

    That furry brown one looks rather disturbingly like Trumpy.

  5. Vivacious G Says:

    So incredibly creative. Like characters from that …I think it was Spirited Away?

  6. joseph Says:

    thank you much!

    great site by the way.

  7. lucylle Says:

    Serendipity! I wanted to submit to the blog a series of portraits by Ted Sabarese that included a fashion spread with models posing against these very outfits! :-D
    Link is here, if you’re interested: (he also did brilliant food outfits, in his blog there’s a making of video that speaks volumes on the time it took)

  8. Alicia Says:

    He’s actually a professor at my school. He seems like a really nice person when I stop by the department (I’m in painting and graphic design). I’m glad that this week he seems to be on a lot of blogs.

  9. Larissa Says:

    I remember seeing his name (and artwork) on the cover of Ornament magazine and stopping dead in my tracks. The incongruous mental image of the singer Nick Cave making these manipulations of fiber and found object while singing Murder Ballads was too funny, it was enough to make me pick up the magazine and learn about this Nick Cave.

    “Would you pass me that muthafuckin twig…said Stagger Lee!”

  10. Nadia Says:

    I met him last year when I was hanging out in the fashion department. He’s a really cool guy, his suits are amazing! I always thought he should have been working more in the sculpture or performance departments then in the fashion department. But then again SAIC fashion is often borderline sculptural.

  11. Jerem Morrow Says:

    If he’s not designing costumes for the stage/screen/my closet, he damn well should be!

  12. Kratom Says:

    These suits are amazing, I believe the other Mr Cave has his made on Savile Road in London, very smart but just love these. Amazing!