Sight and Sound

January 4, 2019
ART IN ACTION Nick Cave’s work uses sound and motion.
DON ARNOLD—WIREIMAGE/GETTY IMAGES

It was an ordinary day at Grand Central Terminal, in New York City. The train station was busy. People were rushing to and from work. Then the creatures showed up.

Dancers perform in Nick Cave’s Soundsuits in New York City.

MIKE COPPOLA—GETTY IMAGES

They were green, red, and shades of blue. They rose with a whisper. When they moved, they whooshed like leaves in the wind. They waddled. They stomped. They shimmied to a drumbeat. People stopped to watch the creatures dance. It was like stepping into a different world.

That’s what artist Nick Cave wants us to feel. He created the costumes, called Soundsuits. “I want viewers to reflect on how they respond to someone or something unlike themselves,” Cave told TIME for Kids. “It’s a way to start a discussion about difference and the power of uniqueness.”

Nick Cave poses with one of his fantastic creatures.

MIKE COPPOLA—GETTY IMAGES

New Life

Cave says putting on a Soundsuit lets him be seen without prejudice. “It hides gender, race, and class,” he says. “It is an extremely liberating feeling.”

The suits can make viewers feel free, too. Coralie Claeysen-Gleyzon works at a museum where the Soundsuits were on display last year. “The suits open the door to imagination,” she says. “They help you project what you could be, what you could create.”

This Soundsuit is made from twigs, wire, and a basket.

© NICK CAVE; COURTESY THE ARTIST AND JACK SHAINMAN GALLERY, NEW YORK

Feeling inspired? Take a lesson from the artist and look around you. Cave observes the world. That is where he gets some of his best ideas. “The places and people I come across every day are the greatest and most surprising inspirations,” he says.

Lost and Found

NICK CAVE; COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND JACK SHAINMAN GALLERY, NEW YORK.

The Soundsuits for the Grand Central Terminal performance were made of raffia. It’s a strawlike fiber. It is made from palm leaves. But Cave makes his Soundsuits with other materials, too. These include sequins, buttons, blankets, porcelain birds, and toys. Cave finds these items in secondhand stores. He gives them new life in his Soundsuits.