#ChiStories Podcast: Nick Cave and the Art of Chicago

Art, space, color, and movement.

On this week’s episode of “Chicago Stories” podcast, Mayor Emanuel was joined by renowned visual and performance artist Nick Cave to talk about how he approached his immersive new work at the CTA’s Garfield Green Line “L” Station. They also looked back at the origins of his iconic “Soundsuits,” how failure continues to be a necessary feature to his artistic process, and much more.

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Mayor Emanuel and Nick Cave share a laugh. (Photo credit: Patrick Pyszka)
“I look at space as I would look at the way in which one choreographs a work.”

If you take Green Line to Washington Park in Chicago’s South Side, you will disembark into a mesmerizing space of color, pattern and movement designed by Cave as part of the historic station’s transformation.

“I look at space as I would look at the way in which one choreographs a work,” Cave said. “How does the audience enter the space, what does that encounter, what are they surrounded by, what is the rhythm of how things fit and flow together. And so it all becomes part of this vernacular of this experience.”

In the case of his work at the Garfield Green Line station, Cave sought to create something more than simply a work of art in a train stop, and instead approached the piece as a collaboration of sorts by incorporating his vision within the station’s own architecture, not to mention having it interact with Frederick Olmstead’s own vision of Washington Park, and the station’s historic role as the entry point to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.

“That was a real interesting way of working,” Cave said. “I love the idea that this is an immersive installation, and that once you come off the train you’re in this experience.”

Mayor Emanuel and Nick Cave touring the new Garfield Green Station. (Photo credit: Patrick Pyszka)
“That twig represented what does it feel like to feel discarded, less-than, dismissed.”

It was that same contextual immersion that informed Cave’s process of creating his iconic Soundsuits.

As Cave told Mayor Emanuel, his Soundsuits were borne out of his response to the Rodney King verdict in 1992, and evolved through a series of inspirations, first while sitting in Grant Park.

“I looked down on the ground and there was a twig,” Cave said. “I started to collect all the twigs in the park because that twig represented what does it feel like to feel discarded, less-than, dismissed.”

The inspiration didn’t end there. Cave’s famous Soundsuits actually started as a single sculpture, and stayed that way until he realized he could put it on.

“The moment I put it on and started to move it made sound,” Cave said, “and then when I made sound I started to think about the role of protest and in order to be heard you have to speak louder.”

Mayor Emanuel and Nick Cave cut ribbon on the new Garfield Green station with community leaders and city workers. (Photo credit: Patrick Pyszka)

Be sure to listen to the rest of the episode as Cave tells Mayor Emanuel about the Chicago’s strength as a cultural center, how he teaches his students to trust themselves, and talks about creating art as a form of service.

Listen to the full episode as Nick Cave and Mayor Emanuel discuss:

0:24 — Inspiration for Garfield Green Line Installation
3:56 — Creation of Soundsuits
12:27 — Art Through Failure
16:06 — City Art
22:33 — Materials, Mediums, Means, and Messages

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