“Re: Chicago” DePaul Art Museum (September, 2011–March, 2012)
Some clothes we wear to be invisible, to blend in; other clothes extend our personhood and beg passersby for interface. Nick Cave’s soundsuits are neither office casual nor black tie. The soundsuits belong to a special category of dress reserved for transforming everyday realities, such as during celebrations, holy days, pageants, carnivals, and rituals—but which rituals? Who wears this cloak? The soundsuit on display resembles papal garb, especially the mitre shape of the headgear, but Cave’s soundsuits need not be linked to one specific magical or spiritual tradition. In fact, it is the soundsuits’ upending and blending of diverse cultural references that make them best suited to outfitting our formless fears and dreams. Each Halloween, just for one night, we celebrate the gruesomeness of death and decay, perhaps to reflect on the growth of life and love, and to enact the possibility of changeable identities. Likewise, the soundsuits ask, what if every day is a ritual? Could our everyday clothes incite us to embrace the strange? Here, the soundsuit on display is unworn, unanimated. It can be admired for its craftsmanship and energized aesthetics, but like a dress hanging in your closet, it awaits your choice of who or what you might be today. It’s amazing what you can get away with when wearing a costume.