Nick Cave’s Soundsuits Confront Racism With Radical Artistry [Video]

An exhibition entitled “Here Hear” was previously on display at the Cranbrook Art Museum in Detroit, close to Cave’s alma mater.

Artist Nick Cave has caught public attention with his astounding “Soundsuits.” The Missouri native combines loud color and bold texture, creating wearable art that can be put on display or worn in interpretative performances.

The suits make use of vivid tones and hallucinatory patterns. They can also produce sounds, which might lead one to believe they have a comical intent. Their real meaning is much more profound. Cave made the first suit after the video footage of Rodney King being unlawfully beat by the LAPD in 1992 was released.

Since then, he has made over five hundred suits, surpassing the simplicity of his first, simple suit made from a sheath of twigs. Through the suits, Cave confronts his identity as a black man faced by racial profiling and police brutality.

Through the suits, Cave can resist the urge to lash out due to personal experiences as well as public inequalities in American history. He has turned his feelings into art that almost can’t be avoided, for as he says “The ‘Soundsuits’ hide gender, race, class and they force you to look at the work without judgment.”

Furthermore, the “Soundsuits” are “vehicles for empowerment,” putting a new spin on the artistic possibilities of confronting prejudice through art. Cave’s suits are like “an alien second skin […] allowing viewers to look without bias toward the wearer’s identity.”

Cranbrook-mosphere, Nick Cave-mosphere. (cave)

Cranbrook-mosphere, Nick Cave-mosphere. (source)

Cave previously caught public attention with a piece entitled “TM 13”, made in homage to the death of Trayvon Martin. Cave has grown progressively afflicted by the plight of being a black man in America: “The underlying history of my work has [addressed] the political realms of black identity.

“This is me now looking and responding to the state of affairs. Now we can talk about Charleston and the ongoing concern around race and identity and profiling today.”

Cave stages interventions all around Detroit, including dance labs and other performances to unify people under the shared banner of art.


Gabriel Brass Band-mosphere, Here Hear-mosphere. (source)

Gabriel Brass Band-mosphere, Here Hear-mosphere. (source)

Photo source.

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