It’s quite hard to put into words the phenomenal impact Nick Cave’s artwork UNTIL carries. Sheer scale, beauty, colour and and quirk amalgamate to create a colossal canopy of meaning. But it’s until you look closer that you begin to immerse yourself in the story behind the installation- a timely and vital reminder of violence, racism and community, all causes very close to the artist’s heart.

Until is about the urgency I feel as an artist, as an African American, as a citizen of the United States of America, and as a resident of Chicago, Illinois. All too often, we are faced with a history that keeps repeating, one in which gun violence pervades our streets in the hands of both civilians and law enforcement.

Nick Cave

It’s his most ambitious project yet and has been a decade in the making. The artwork itself resonates the question “Is there racism in heaven?”, a thought which Nick Cave often asked himself when creating UNTIL. The complexity of the artwork delves into social, racial and violent topics such as gun violence, racial profiling and gender politics- often the issues plaguing the United States in today’s society. Nick Cave recalls being shocked by violent police brutality which ultimately lead to the death of African-American man Rodney King, and the following riots which pivoted police against the black community. Since then, Cave has focused his passions and energy into creating works of art which defy race, gender, religion and politics. As one of his most challenging artworks yet, Cave’s iconic sound suit is not the subject of viewing, instead we are invited into the belly of a sound suit to observe, think and challenge our civic responsibilities.

“We all are here together. We’re not going anywhere. So we must find ways to live together. Right?

UNTIL is suspended high and deep within Carriageworks, a beautiful partnership between space, architecture and immersive experience. Though five tonnes in weight, the apparatus or ‘Crystal Cloudscape’ floats with ease amongst a plethora of hanging mobiles. If your eyes glaze over the mobiles, they appear to be charming and pretty movable features within the work. But upon closer inspection, each mobile is tainted with a very real symbol or message, with some featuring guns, tear drops or bullets in their centre. These ornaments are instruments for change and are a punch-in-the-gut reminder of the topics of gun control and racially profiled abuse. The audience is invited to climb their way up to ‘heaven’ using bright yellow ladders which transport you from the ground to the top viewing area of the cloudscape. Here, you are greeted with a sea of memorabilia and items like porcelain birds, ceramic items, soft toys, glass vases and garden ornaments.

Strewn throughout the organised busyness of the artwork are items and relics of racial past, including Jim Crow inspired dolls and characters. Cave says he has collected the American racist memorabilia over ten years from garage sales and vintage shops. Here, they find a new home within a poignant piece of meaning. The audience, whilst perched above ‘heaven’, are invited to reflect on the history of community, equality and acceptance within a world which today remains torn by xenophobia and hate. Nick Cave, alongside Carriageworks, have created an extremely important talking piece which needs to be seen by all. It’s a beautiful yet bittersweet reminder of the world we live in, one which needs constant reflection and improvement.

With thanks to Zan Wimberley, ABC and Carriageworks for their imagery and sources.