Art in Conversation: Dr. Akiemi Glenn on Nick Cave's Soundsuit

Arminda Gandara, HoMA Public Programs Manager:

Welcome to Art in Conversation. Dr. Akiemi Glenn is a linguist, community organizer, and founder of the organization The Pōpolo Project. Dr. Glenn reflects on the importance of Nick Cave’s Soundsuit, found in Gallery 27 as part of the exhibition 30 Americans.



Dr. Akiemi Glenn, founder of The Pōpolo Project :

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Soundsuit by Nick Cave. They are so striking and a lot of people have been really excited to be able to see them in person after having seen them online or renditions of them.


Thinking about those works especially too, I have been sewing masks for myself and for my friends. It’s been a fun time to kind of dig through my sewing scraps and see what interesting patterns I have. I was thinking about, not that I fancy myself anything like a Nick Cave, but I was thinking about as I am making these masks, I am thinking about, in this time that feels kind of scary, how we can adorn ourselves even in our protective gear and imagine that even as I am covering my face I am also representing something about myself.


Spending some time to do that for my friends, loved ones, and neighbors, has got me thinking about the physicality of making and how having these interactions or how being able to stand in front of a piece like the Soundsuit reminds you of the physicality. You wonder, how did he do that? How did all those pieces come together.


I think that ties us back into the conversation on futurism. Futurism is asking us to be in engaged in making. Really being engaged in making a world that we want to see. Whether that’s a world that has to respond to, as we are responding to the possibility of transmitting or being infected by a virus. Or in Nick Caves work thinking about the prevalence and disorder of violence that’s inflicted on black and brown bodies.


In those spaces of protecting and responding to those problems, there is also an opportunity for us to decide what kind of response we want to make. We can make a response that is fully defensive and guarded and shuts down any representation of who we are and who we want to be. Or we can take it that as an opportunity and say yes, we are protecting ourselves and protecting our community and we are going to do it in the most authentic way to us. We are going to do it in a way and shows who we are, protects us yes, but also creates a space for us to project who we want to be. That’s really cool and that’s something that was unexpected for me.