Unveiling one of its most ambitious visual arts project ever, Carriageworks presents Nick Cave: Until – the most substantial presentation of work by a solo artist, the acclaimed American artist Nick Cave.
A play on the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” or in this case “guilty until proven innocent” – Until began with a question Cave asked himself: “Is there racism in heaven?” Rather than providing a direct answer, Cave offers us an experience – an immersive exhibition that addresses issues of race relations, gender politics and gun violence in America, and the resonance of these matters in communities around the world.
“I view this work as a theatre set, or an elaborate community forum, as much as a work of sculpture,” explains Nick Cave.
His largest exhibition to date, the centrepiece is Crystal Cloudscape – a 12 metre long and six-metre wide sculpture, weighing over five tonnes, and suspended within the Carriageworks public space. Made primarily from thousands of crystals, beads, and found objects, visitors are invited to climb one of four ladders to view the top surface of the work where an uncanny bricolage of objects that reference an American vernacular past and present populate a landscape simultaneously alluring as it is menacing.
Amidst the porcelain birds, money-boxes, ceramic salt and pepper shakers, candelabras, gramophone speakers, soft toys, glass fruit, gold-gilded pigs, life-sized crocodile, holy water receptacles, dandelions, flowers and Beams Trophy Whiskey Decanters are 17 cast-iron ‘Jocko’-style lawn jockeys whose historic roots date to the Jim Crow era of legislated segregation that operated in parts of the United States from 1877-1965. Replacing the lanterns that the lawn jockeys once held, Cave’s ‘Jockos’ hold dreamcatchers that have been fashioned from vintage tennis rackets and beads.
Speaking to the artist’s belief that art invigorates communities, Nick Cave: Until will also be used as a site for artistic engagement over the three-month presentation, including free events across music and performance, panel discussions and community forums. This program of events has been curated by Carriageworks for the Sydney presentation and will see artists working across dance, visual arts, music, performance, theatre and literature to respond to the exhibition.
Ten artists and collectives have been announced to convene with Cave in a one-day Call & Response workshop including, Romance Was Born designers Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett; dancer and visual artist Bhenji Ra; choreographer and dancer Thomas E.S Kelly; singer-songwriter Ngaiire; poet and musician Ileini Kabalan a.k.a. Lay the Mystic; singer-songwriter Mojo Juju; chef Kylie Kwong; Moogahlin Artistic Director Lillian Shearer; filmmaker Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore; and artist and writer Atong Atem.
Cave has created an exhibition experience where kinetics and sumptuous materials are interrupted with stark images of guns, bullets and targets. Other works within Until include the Kinetic Spinner Forest, Hy-Dyve, Beaded Cliff Wall, Flow/Blow and Wallwork:
Kinetic Spinner Forest consists of 16,000 hanging mobiles made from metallic spinning garden ornaments. On close inspection these seemingly playful objects have at their centre the shape of a teardrop, bullet or hand-gun. The initial enchantment of the forest is ruptured by the pointed reminder of the omnipresent and polarising position that guns occupy in American culture.
Hy-Dyve is an immersive 14 channel video installation and exploration into states of anxiety and agitation fuelled by the pervasive notions of surveillance and racial profiling. The floor component of the work is site-specific for Sydney; the footage of waves crashing against the rocks filmed by drone at Little Bay. The pull and swell of the ocean projected onto the floor creates a tidal momentum within the room.
Beaded Cliff Wall is an extraordinary installation constructed with millions of plastic hair pony beads. This site-specific installation and has been completely redesigned and reconceived for Carriageworks. The beaded curtains are displayed in their entirety, running the lengths of the gallery walls and creating a room within a room. Visitors can walk between the curtains that read as both luscious textiles and powerful protest flags.
Flow/Blow is a fan propelled wall of shimmering party streamers. The life-giving, cleansing and healing properties of water and oxygen are writ large, inviting viewers to take breath.
Wallwork is a kaleidoscopic collage of images mostly adapted from Crystal Cloudscape. The image of ‘Jocko’, the eternal gatekeeper and messenger, is interwoven with flowers that represent renewal, and birds who both surveil and bring news.
“Carriageworks is honoured to work with Nick Cave and our international partner institutions to deliver this extraordinary project,” said Carriageworks Director Lisa Havilah. “Carriageworks is a place that engages communities with contemporary ideas and issues through commissioning and presenting work across dance, visual arts, music and performance.”
“Nick Cave is an artist who is undefinable in the way that he can easily move between artistic forms, while also creating a work that has a great generosity to other artists and to our communities. Nick Cave: Until provides an opportunity to see ourselves reflected which is a great gift from Nick Cave to all of us.”
“Cave has created a very special opportunity–to step outside of our everyday lives, to be in a place where more is possible, to dream, and then to act. All of us here look forward to being together inside the unique world that is the work of Nick Cave,” added Havilah.
Nick Cave: Until is the result of a partnership between Carriageworks, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, with the three organisations co-commissioning and co-presenting the project following four years development with the artist. In Australia the exhibition will be seen exclusively at Carriageworks.
Nick Cave: Until
Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh
Exhibition continues to 3 March 2019
For more information, visit: www.carriageworks.com.au for details.
Image: Nick Cave at Carriageworks – photo by Zan Wimberley