Soundsuits created by Nick Cave, American, born 1959
The artist thought of these originally as protective suits against the fate of Rodney King, 1965-2012, American, who was beaten in 1991 to within an inch of his life by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department after a high-speed chase. 53 people died in riots which followed the acquittal of the policemen.
The artist proposes these suits to mask identity. He calls them soundsuits because of the noise made by the first one he ever created.
This practice of using fabric as a self-protective and transforming camouflage is familiar to me.
When I was younger, I bought myself – if I could afford- a piece of gorgeous fabric, antique or ethnic, whenever some gratuitously nasty event had overtaken me.
I have them all still and those nastinesses and horrible people are forgotten, transmuted into fabric and colour which I incorporate now into cloths of various uses and often for people whom I like and love and about whom I think with every satisfying stitch.
Sometimes, I have to confess, it is not a transformation but an act of incapacitation: I incorporate the cloth into my own clothing on the principle that we need to hold our friends close, but our enemies closer. There it remains, beautiful and impuissant and cleaned with every wash.
Mixed Media, 2009. Smithsonian Musuem of American Art, Washington, DC.