Lights on Tampa: Nick Cave’s HEARD

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Nick Cave’s dance/Soundsuit dream-work, HEARD in Grand Central Terminal. (Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin.)

This isn’t the “of the Bad Seeds” Nick Cave.

This is the performance artist Nick Cave who studied at the Ailey School and later joined the faculty at the Art Institute of Chicago. He now serves that institution as the director of the graduate fashion program.

If you haven’t heard of him or had a pleasure of seeing his work, Nick Cave is a big deal. He’s coming to Tampa, and we want to make sure you know about it.

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Soundsuits created by Nick Cave. (Photo: Jack Shainman Gallery)

Best known for a wearable sculpture design that makes noise when activated, a design he calls “Soundsuits,” Cave’s works have been shown around the world.

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Soundsuits created by Nick Cave. (Photo: Jack Shainman Gallery)

The newsmaker for the last few years is his dance/Soundsuit dream-work, HEARD. The Soundsuit concept happened more than 20 years ago when, responding to the Rodney King beating, Cave pieced together a costume/sculpture of twigs. Since then, his designs have included an array of found objects including dryer lint and plastic buttons.

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Detail of a Soundsuit created by Nick Cave. (Photo: James Prinz, Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery)

HEARD developed from a partnership between Cave and New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority Arts for Transit and a third party called Creative Time, who wanted to stage Cave’s work in Grand Central Station. Cave wanted something magical, something to take people into a world of wonder, and the idea emerged to create life-sized horses out of multi-colored “kinetic raffia.” The horses would move and dance, powered by Ailey School Dancers, and interact with the audience.

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Sixty dancers from The Ailey School inhabited Soundsuits created by Nick Cave to become the herd of thirty horses of Heard-NY. (Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin.)

As with the traditional horse puppet costumes, Cave’s herd of thirty horses has two parts: one for the head and one for the rump. Dancers take on either part of the horse, each head elaborately decorated with headpieces invoking the intricate textiles of eastern Europe, Asia, India and sub-Saharan Africa. Cave’s equine Soundsuits animate with William Gill’s choreography so that the dancers bring the horses to life until the two parts separate into a choreographed ritual dance.

The effect on audiences in New York, north Texas and other places where HEARD displayed has unanimously been one of breathtaking wonder, just as Cave had hoped. We have every reason to believe Tampa audiences will have the same reaction when HEARD performs during Lights on Tampa at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park at 6:30pm and 8:30pm on Feb. 20-21.

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A close up of the detail on the Heard-NY Soundsuits.(Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin.)

A few of the dancers making up the HEARD:TPA horses will be Patel Conservatory‘s Next Generation Ballet. These worldly, magical performances are free and open to the public.

Check out this short promo video for the HEARD-NY installation to get an idea of what all the excitement is about.