How Nick Cave Uses Discarded Objects to Reclaim Identity

What it was, what it is, and what it shall be.

That’s how artist Nick Cave describes his three-part exhibition now on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago as he works to reclaim identity with help from discarded objects.

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It’s a full-circle moment for Nick Cave as he looks back at his career in a new exhibit at the MCA titled “Forothermore.” 

“This is my biggest survey and sort of looking into my practice,” Nick Cave says. “For me, this is expanding back to 2000, and so it really sort of allows me to present this breath of work and it’s great for me to revisit.”

It’s in repurposing objects of all types, that Cave works to acknowledge and celebrate the new life he’s found in the once discarded objects. This comes after decades of traveling as an emerging artist, creating art with nothing more than the objects around him. 

“Materials also provide a way in for a lot of the audience. There is something you’ll be able to relate to that’s familiar,” Cave says. “Looking at the found, just the sort of the discarded and reclaiming these things and finding a new meaning, a new purpose for them. That was really the beginning of my work that led into sound suits.”

Reclaiming discarded objects is not the only narrative Cave works to rewrite. 

“For decades, I have been trying to bring light to the subject of racism, inequality, and injustice and at the same time, I have to resolve that within myself. Every time something happens, I’ve got to resolve it, otherwise it can destroy me,” Cave said “I’m interested in shifting the narrative in owning our history. Owning our past and being resilient in that process ... How do you psychologically work through the manipulative ways one calculates how we exist and saying no to that? It’s my way of recognizing and putting it in your face. But elevating it and empowering it in this most remarkable way.”

No matter the medium, Cave says he hopes his work serves as a vehicle for change as he continues what he describes as his civic responsibility to speak for the voices that are not heard.

“We’re in the spinner forest installation right now. from a distance it’s sparkly and light but up close it’s made of guns bullets targets teardrops so it just … all of what you see and think is beautiful all of a sudden hits you in the gut,” Cave said. “That’s the thing — don’t think what you’re looking at is pretty. The more you invest in spending time with it, you’ll find it’s very dark underneath. I want to take you on this journey. I want there to be moments of silence, stillness, and find ways in which you can come to the work and be open to something that is unfamiliar that looks different and how do we step up to that.” 

Forothermore” is on display at the MCA until Oct. 2. 

Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3

Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.

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