Nick Cave: Fashion or Art or Something Else Altogether

Last Thursday we attended a dialogue between University of Michigan Museum of Art’s director, Jopseh Rosa and artist Nick Cave. Known for his extraordinary sound suits, the two talked about his role as an artist and educator, highlighting his process in both worlds.

Using found objects from nature and flea markets, there are three components to his suits: stand-alone sculpture, how they look and sound in dance and performance (Cave trained in dance at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater) and as photographed objects. There are motifs which repeat themselves including colorful fur suits, twig and tree trunk shaped suits with basket weavings incorporated, iridescent space-age looking suits made of buttons with open “mouths” as well as what I call oversized gingerbread men among others. Because of this, I found it particularly interesting when he denounced fashion design’s need to produce a collection. In his mind, it was more about the process of “making”, the challenge and excitement of producing work during art school that not only engaged but challenged the mainstream norms.

His vision is absolutely astounding and achieves the “dream-state” ,something he touched upon, but I found myself watching the loop of videos and images, beginning to get a sense of what aesthetics and themes he was comfortable returning to. That to me, began to feel like a collection.

Which brings up the question: Is fashion design as it’s taught in school meant to be replicated and sold at Gap? Is that an art? Or should it be a solitary experience, one which allows the artist to choose and learn based on his/her own experience of making the piece by hand and not sold in stores to be consumed by the masses. Most fashion design students go on to work for companies (like Ann Taylor or Banana Republic) and sometimes, fashion labels such as Calvin Klein, Michael Kors or even Alexander McQueen.

Cave’s perception of fashion moves further beyond that, laying the responsibility on the viewer to deem what his work is. It’s been featured in a diverse array of publications including fashion, art and craft magazines which further allows him to learn how his work is categorized. For someone that’s selling out shows in a world that’s generally suffering from recession is quite a feat. But I’m sure you can see why people are clamoring at his works.

-Y-

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