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Second year of Engagements Lecture Series kicks off on Sept. 28

Sep 23, 2018 |
Performance artist and sculptor Nick Cave
Cranbrook Academy of Art

The Engagements Lecture Series is bringing acclaimed performance artist and sculptor Nick Cave to the Paramount Theater this Friday night at 7 p.m. as the first keynote speaker of this academic year’s series of events. Cave, whose work and performances blend sculpture, installation, video, choreographed performances and fashion, will be joined on stage by Music chair Ted Coffey, who will be moderating the discussion.

Free tickets and transportation will be provided to students in the New College Curriculum. The University also is offering free admission to the ticketed event – on a first come, first served basis – to faculty and staff.

Cave is best known for his “Soundsuits,” the surreal, wearable fabric sculptures that he first designed as metaphorical responses to the 1991 beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police. They have evolved into vehicles of empowerment in which Cave regularly performs in collaborations with choreographers, dancers and amateur performers.

Cave’s work sometimes refers to horrific situations, Coffey said, using materials and images loaded (among other things) with violent cultural history.

“But he assembles them in such a way, at such a scale, and with such commitment to humanity, joy, and spirit that what we’re left with is a space of overwhelming sensual beauty and communal awe. He models transformation — not Pollyanna but positive transformation,” Coffey said.

The goal of the Engagements Lecture Series is to expose first-year students in the New College Curriculum to leaders in art, thought, and scholarship, says Bo Odom, the College’s Academic Programs Manager.

“Nick Cave is so welcoming to new learners and burgeoning artists,” Odom says of Cave. “Those students enrolled in the Engagements will have a tremendous opportunity to ask Nick first-hand about his process – an experience very few first-year students have in higher education.

In his 2016 work, Until, Cave designed a vast sculptural field of metallic lawn ornaments leading to a crystal cloud topped by a private garden filled with birds, flowers and black-face lawn jockeys. The active space gives way to stark images of guns, bullets and targets.

“Working from the perspective of the audience, from our perspective, we initially have these stunning, superabundant aesthetic experiences. But as we look further, as we explore the poetics of his work, we discover just how engaged it is with social, cultural, and political struggle. In Mr. Cave’s words, the work occasions a kind of ‘elaborate community forum,’” Coffey said. “His work is ideal for the New Curriculum Engagements because it so clearly demonstrates the reward in examining the context, motivations, and poetics of a subject under study — looking under the hood to figure out how things work.”

To request tickets for Friday’s Engagements Lecture Series appearance by Cave, email Bo Odom at


When: 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 28
Where: The Paramount Theater, 215 E. Main St., Charlottesville, VA