Nick Cave and Bob Faust lead collaborative ‘workshop’

Artist Nick Cave speaks with Sonnet Coggins of WCMA in the midst of collaborative conversations. Photo by Rachel Lee.
Artist Nick Cave speaks with Sonnet Coggins of WCMA in the midst of collaborative conversations. Photo by Rachel Lee.

With folding gallery chairs neatly lined up in a circle in the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) Rotunda Monday night, it seemed we were getting ready for a straightforward conversation – or perhaps discussion – about the work and practice of artist Nick Cave and Cave Studio Special Projects Director and designer Bob Faust. We weren’t.

Instead, Cave and Faust told us that they wanted the workshop to be about collaboration, to examine stories from different perspectives – themes that are central to Cave’s artmaking. This collaboration, then, was to be done by us. Randomly paired up with partners by Cave and Faust, who delightfully pointed to students across the circle, we were directed to interview each other for a total of 30 minutes, then spend time using the arts and crafts materials around the room to make something, anything, that would tell our partner’s story to the rest of the group.

In retrospect, the pointing and pairing up of students was the only deliberate action Cave and Faust took in putting the workshop into action, and perhaps that was the point. Faust showed us his interpretation of Cave’s work and story through just several examples of the catalogues, posters and one inflatable punching bag he has designed for Cave over the years. Then, he said, it was our turn.

The result was – well, it just was. There’s no one word to describe what happened after Cave and Faust essentially showed the tired phrase “I’m not an artist” the door. Presentations – performances – ranged from a low-tech but rather funny “PowerPoint” on paper bags by Diana Chen ’16 to a slow, quiet dance performance by Merudjina Normil ’19 punched by sudden jolts.

This wasn’t a talk or a workshop by any means – Cave and Faust sat with us in the circle, laughing, commenting, reacting along with the crowd as everyone learned about each other and maybe themselves in creating from what was present.

Cave is an artist in the most broad sense of the word; known for his work in sculpture, installation, sound and video, his works make you think about race, gender and class, but from a completely removed perspective. There’s no explicit image per se, but in looking at TM 13, for example, we see the forms of an animal of some sort, trapped in a woven net, with a single sneaker pointing out from the bottom. TM, Trayvon Martin; 13, George Zimmerman’s year of acquittal.

Organized by WCMA Assistant Curator of Public Programs Nina Pelaez and Professor of Art Amy Podmore, the event was accompanied by a talk at Mass MoCA on April 12 and comes in advance of Until, a large-scale installation filling the entirety of the football-field-sized Building 5 at Mass MoCA, opening Oct. 16.

Keep an eye out – with the dozens of metallic lawn ornaments and millions of beads leading to a “crystal cloud topped by a private garden populated with birds, flowers and black-face lawn jockeys –” how could you not?

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