Books and blood splatters: within the universe of Nick Cave

Nick Cave's new exhibition is one of the earliest to open after the pandemic, and it seems like a particularly convenient way to get out of the block. The show, which was held at the Black Diamond in the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen, had been postponed for a few months when the pandemic spread worldwide. Now that it has opened, its utterly lived aesthetic unintentionally reflects the way many of us have lived in recent months: given the inner niches of our own worlds.

Stranger than friendliness: The Nick Cave exhibition is a labyrinthine journey through the life and creative career of the musician, as can be seen from his extensive archive. The exhibition is divided into eight rooms, with each installation littered with endless book towers and designs, original templates, handwritten texts, diaries, photographs, videos and found objects.

In total, the exhibition shows over 300 artifacts that were either collected or created by Cave, who made a great contribution to the curation alongside designer and curator of the Royal Danish Library, Christina Back, and Janine Barrand from Arts Center Melbourne.

"I was curious about how he was a storyteller in his songs and novels, of course, but also how he created these stories about himself as a person during his career and how he re-created them all the time," says Back CR, how The exhibition came into being.

Cave is no stranger to taking a look under the hood of fans. Previous albums by Nick Cave and Bad Seeds were accompanied by DVDs, hardcovers, and replica notebooks, each of which revealed generous details about the band's inner workings. Elsewhere, Cave has had intimate public discussions and has used the Red Hand Files website as a direct forum for the public to ask about his life and work for the past two years.

However, the artist and musician admitted that he was initially hesitant to do the exhibition. "When the Royal Danish Library contacted me about the idea of ​​a" Nick Cave Exhibition ", I didn't want to get involved," he said in a statement. "I'm not nostalgic by nature and didn't have time to go to Memory Lane."

All installation pictures: Anders Sune Berg

Back says, however, that Cave came over when he "recognized the opportunities to create spatial narratives" and was ultimately closely involved in the process. "I think he really found his way here: where he could create these visual stories," she says.

Back explains that curators are sometimes prevented from getting too involved in the history of an exhibition. However, since Cave acted as a collector, curator, and creator, it meant they could steer the show in a new direction – which Back rarely sees.

The exhibition aims to create a connection between Cave's many artistic possibilities, from his poems, novels and writings to visual cues and his decades of music career. Image and music are closely connected in Cave's world (images from blood, glue, hair and found objects are said to have inspired his songwriting), which is evident in the exhibition. Each of the eight rooms is accompanied by a soundscape created by Cave and Warren Ellis with the aim of creating a multi-sensory experience.

The show also features two installations by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, who in 2014 directed the documentary drama 20,000 Days on Earth, which they wrote together with Cave and which represents fictional 24 hours in his life.

One of the largest installations in the exhibition is the "office", which is filled to the brim with material from Cave's own house. "I have borrowed all of his books – he has no more books!" Back says. "We have moved, I believe, almost 100 boxes of these books, his desk, his piano, pictures of his walls, and we have reproduced his office in an exhibition (format)." Visitors are invited to read his stuff and search the pages of his notebooks.

In addition to the many books, there are a number of materials that Cave calls "secret and unshaped" materials that flow into his published official work. "There is an enormous amount of these peripheral things – drawings, maps, lists, doodles, photographs, paintings, collages, doodles and drafts," he says.

“We created an exhibition that feels unprecedented in its bold range. Your feet are rooted in the past and extend into the uncertain future, ”he adds. "In the end, we were able to put together an exhibition with extraordinary details that commented on the fragility and vulnerability of identity."

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Stranger than friendliness: The Nick Cave exhibition runs until February 13, 2021 at the Black Diamond in Copenhagen.