Tramway, Glasgow: Nick Cave – Until

Nick Cave Until
Nick Cave Until

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Until 24th November

When you walk into Nick Cave’s immersive installation Until you’re met with what at first seems to resemble something between Santa Claus’ workshop and a gigantic magpie’s nest, a whirlpool of shiny colourful objects. Tramway’s main gallery is transformed into a multicoloured dreamland filled with thousands of kinetic ornaments, and it’s a challenge for the senses. Finding your way around and following the prescribed path in and around the installation, you’d be entirely captivated by the twisting ornaments suspended from the ceiling, singing and flickering, almost creating an optical illusion. 

Nick Cave: Until

It takes a moment or two to notice the delicately shimmering symbols. There are teardrops, targets, bullets and guns – twisting in the air and shiny like Christmas tree decorations, luring you in like video game prizes. The walls of the gallery are covered with colourful beads showing the word ‘power’ sewn in white over the Pan-African flag, a black ribbon, the human rights campaign logo. Although seemingly whimsical, Until is a kaleidoscopic world of politically-charged signage. 

A cloud of lavish chandeliers appears to be the centrepiece of the installation. It is surrounded by multiple yellow ladders inviting you to climb to the top where you’d discover a ‘heaven’ of found objects collected by the artists. There are artificial fruits, flowers and animals, Christmas trees, antique toys, a gramophone, and even a crocodile. There are also multiple black ‘lawn jockeys’ – American garden decorations from the not so distant past with contested history but consensually agreed on as racist. Nick Cave’s work is intimately engaged with racism; it’s history and impact. Through accumulating materials, the artist crafts a collective identity, almost like a collage of American reality. The opulence of the cloud’s top is overwhelming – it seems like a collection of objects that are out of place and out of time. 

In the words of Cave himself, ‘Innocent until proven guilty or guilty until proven innocent’ expands on the installation’s title and themes. With Until he presents a transformative installation which while disguised as fun, figurative and kitschy, is a commentary on one of the most significant constitutional issues in the United States. Beside one of the gallery’s walls, there’s Unarmed – a sculpture of a bronze hand framed by a floral laurel wreath. It seems like it’s raised in prayer but also as if holding an invisible gun. Behind the overly figurative and ornamental presentation of Until is a story of violence, death and racism. The grace with which Cave manages to dress up an impactful and ongoing political issue without taking away any of its significance or weight is commendable. Rather than getting lost in the excess that Until is, the message it carries resonates loud and clear. 

Until was organised by MASS MoCA, Massachusetts and co-produced with Carriageworks, Sydney and Crystal Bridges/The Momentary, Arkansas. Major exhibition support was provided by Jack Shainman Gallery and Beadcraft. Curated by Denise Markonish MASS MoCA and for Tramway by Claire Jackson.

Until can be seen in Tramway’s main gallery until 24 November 2019

25 Albert Drive,
Glasgow G41 2PE

Image: Nick Cave – Unarmed, bronze and leaf

With grateful thanks to Bilyana Palankasova, author.

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