Nick Cave is an American sculptor and performance artist. He learnt to sew at the Kansas City Art Institute and, during the same period, trained as a dancer through an Alvin Ailey community program. He is director of the graduate fashion program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The idea came from the Rodney King incident and the LA Riots. There was such racial tension around the world at that time, and I was responding to how Rodney King was identified as a big black man – a monster of sorts. I felt really depressed about the whole thing. I too am a black man and could easily be profiled in the same way. I felt devalued and dismissed, and I decided to respond to this feeling. One day I was in the park thinking about materials that are discarded. I looked down on the ground and saw a twig.
The first Soundsuit was a twig suit, and I viewed it as a sculpture. I never imagined I could wear it, but when it was completed I put it on my body and started to move, making sound from the twigs clanging together. Soundsuits are the full essence of dance and spectacle. Without movement there are no sounds; the Soundsuits rely on the body to activate the sound elements that make up the piece. The Soundsuits also play with ideas around limitation of movement and how the body is forced to reconsider how movement is applied.
Video gets the work out into the world, but it does not give the visceral sensation of the Soundsuits in 3D, or the ritual landscape that surrounds the performances. I am so open to all sorts of dance interfacing with the Soundsuit, from ballet, modern and square-dance to hip hop. So let's dance! — Nick Cave