Nick Cave Exhibit at SAM

Here’s what I know about art:

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Okay, now that that’s out of the way, what did I think about this exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum?

Well, first off, here’s what it isn’t: it isn’t about singer-songwriter Nick Cave. There’s another guy named Nick Cave who’s a performance artist.

So, second off, here’s what it is about: suits. That might be an oversimplification, but if the signage on the exhibit is to be believed, Nick Cave is revolutionizing the Beau Brummel concept of formal wear by creating strange, enormous “soundsuits” out of a variety of found materials. (They’re called “soundsuits” because they have lots of clinky-rustly-swishy bits that make sounds as the wearer moves around.) There were suits made out of sweaters, handbags, buttons, sequins, puppets, doilies, ceramic birds, plastic flowers, twigs and an abacus. It was like walking through the closet of a crazy homeless lady who had mad sewing skills and access to everything.

I can’t say I found this to be personally moving artwork. I didn’t connect to it (as I was told I should) as a form of racial protest. (Apparently, Nick Cave is black, and apparently, that’s IMPORTANT.) I didn’t find the references to clerical hats particularly interesting. Just about the only thing I found compelling was the fact that these suits (unlike every type of clothing I’ve ever seen apart from sports team mascot outfits) pretty much completely hid the wearers sex. A collection of video installations showing the suits worn by dancers made that abundantly clear.

I can’t say I was sorry I saw it, but I’m also really glad I got in for free.