In 1992, Cave’s training in design and movement came together in his creation of his firstsoundsuit. After hearing of the Rodney King beating, he says “I started thinking about myself moreand more as a black man—as someone who was discarded, de-veiled, viewed as less than.”
Caverelates that while contemplating these thoughts in a local park, he noticed twigs on the earth. Hecollected twigs and eventually attached them to a garment structure which he could wear. Once hewas within it, the soundsuit disguised his identity and re-figured his body; it restricted and directedhis movement. For Nick Cave, there was freedom in this restriction. His strange clothing became acommunicative articulation of a body, a self, an identity liberated from stereotype, and insteadflexible, shifting, and layered. Inspired by the potential of this initial re-figuring of the body, Cavehas created hundreds of soundsuits in different materials like beads, feathers, human hair, trash,sequins, and raffia. The ultimate success of the work as soundsuits, rather than simply suits, reliesupon these materials. The materials which Cave chooses for his work index specific cultural and personal meanings. The twigs for example generally connote something natural, for Cave they alsosuggest isolation and disregard. Found objects, of which many of his suits are made, inherently haveimbedded, and often obscure, stories. The purchased materials like hair and sequins are evocative of particular material relations and social systems of exchange. Cave collects all these material stories,narratives, and meanings into a garment to be worn. Through wearing these materials are, as hesuggest, re-animated. By putting them ‘into play’ and giving them ‘voice’ through performance,Cave creates an expressive space for a re-appropriation and re-negotiation of their meaning.Though some suits made of sequins or dyed hair may look carnivalesque or jubilant, thesoundsuits are not simple aesthetic objects. They are designed to be inherently social and political.Cave’s impetus is to uproot notions of fixed identity. As Cave has said, “I don’t really think of
Finkel, Jori. “I Dream the Clothing Electric.” NYTimes. 5 April 2009. Accessed 4 April 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/arts/design/05fink.html>.