The Park Avenue Armory was a dark and cool refuge from this weekend’s intense heat. Drawing the crowd into the venue’s enormous Wade Thompson Drill Hall was made even easier by the (literally) scintillating installation by Nick Cave titled "The Let Go," which can only be described as “outsized prom night” in the 80s with huge moving sculptures made of strands of technicolor mylar. The fabric sculptor and performance artist is best known for his Soundsuits, wearable sculptures made of colorful fabrics.
This was the last weekend of Cave’s part installation, part performance, part social gathering held in the space titled "Up Right." Throughout the performance, the artist challenges interdisciplinary art, while making an important social commentary about racial equality and the Black Lives Matter movement through original song and dance.
With the recent shootings of Antwon Rose Jr. , a 17-year-old unarmed black man and 22-year-old Stephon Clark, the show was a painful reminder of the continued violence experienced by the black community.
The large crowd sat around the stage as men and women emerged from the crowd with their hands in the air, walking slowly to music by Vy Higgensen and her Sing Harlem Choir, as well as musicians Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson, Darrell Nickens and Jorell Williams. A select few sat on wooden chairs (suggestive of stripped down African thrones) while clinical-looking practitioners (representing authority figures) dressed the young black men in metal armature, meant to represent shackles. They then carefully dressed them in Cave’s Soundsuits, and once they were completely concealed under layers of fur and straw, they rose from their seats for the first time and were “reborn.” The room quickly went from somber to joyful as the men in Soundsuits spun and danced to a song that became gradually more upbeat. Cave's work is profoundly political, and is meant to "offer an opportunity for healing from the wounds of racism and hate."
When the show ended, attendees were invited to dance and celebrate, ending the mostly somber performance on an optimistic note, one which will hopefully sooner rather than later, translate to reality.
"The Let Go" ends today, but be sure to check out the Armory's next show, Tony Award-winning director Ivo van Hove's The Damned, starting July 17th.
See more details of Cave's Soundsuits below.