With only one presentation of Nick Cave's soundsuits scheduled in Dallas, Sunday's performance in front of the Nasher Sculpture Center attracted families by the hundreds. People scampered up poles and balanced precariously on top of trash cans and in an effort to watch the procession and subsequent dance performance.
Just for clarification: This Nick Cave is not the musician who plays with The Bad Seeds and Grinderman; he's a performance artist, dancer and fabric sculptor known for his wearable, musical soundsuits, which vary in shape and style. At the Nasher he brought along two varieties: horses and a strange, cone-shaped creature that resembled the love child of Cousin IT and a car wash. Most recently honored as an artist-in-residency at University of North Texas, Cave has spent months designing a new line of his costume instruments, which purposefully bat together when worn. The frayed bits are composed of found objects like hair and dryer lint to create a percussion-rich swishing sound. Yesterday he unleashed a stable of the suits, all filled with dancers from the UNT performance art programs with assistance by the college's drum line, and offered them up for public view along Flora Street.
The horse-shaped soundsuits each held two (likely sweaty) dancers, while the monster-like lumps contained one. After the grand procession leading outdoors had concluded, the drum line cut loose. A beautiful frenzy of choreography ignited and the sculptures began a sort-of tribal dance. Haunches lurched forward as hooves kicked in time with the percussion squad and something unifying occurred. People took turns with those behind them so that everyone could enjoy the spectacle. Little girls laughed and shouted "ponies!" I'm fairly sure that I saw strangers hug.
As the program closed, the cast proceeded back through the Nasher where Mr. Cave was quickly mobbed for autographs, a rarity at an art show. After the fans dissolved and the pageantry ended, he enjoyed a peaceful lunch with friends and family in the shady strip of the museum's cafe patio, overlooking the sculpture garden. Just another perfect afternoon.
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