Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Nick Cave and Album Art

So I've been a casual Nick Cave listener for a few years now. When I learned that he just released a new album, his first since 1998, I immediately went online to see if I could listen to it.

Before listening to any of the tracks though I had stumbled upon an image of the album cover:

featuring Nick Cave on the left, fully clothed, and a nude female figure on the right.

I was really disappointed by the image that I saw, even preventing me from listening to the album as I immediately started to research more information hoping that context might either excuse or erase what appeared to be a clearly misogynistic image representing the album and Cave.

What I learned complicated the image even more.

Initially, I had interpreted Nick Cave as standing infront of an open door, his arm opening the door behind him, forcing her to leave the room/house regardless of the fact that she's naked. Because of the woman's posture I assumed that she was sulking from being scolded. In essence I read this as akin to public shaming of the woman.

But what I learned (albeit from Wikipedia) is that the naked woman is his wife, this was shot in their bedroom, he's opening the window in order to let in the light and to illuminate her body, and that this photograph has been hanging in their bedroom for a number of years now.

Whether or not this is true, I think what is most interesting about this image is whether or not Knowing The Context (her being his wife and that this hangs in their bedroom) changes the reading of the image itself or the effect of the visual narrative. Is it now less offensive? Is it easier to shrug this off as not sexist?
What it probably intended to illustrate is the traditional narrative of the woman-as-muse and a source for creative inspiration, as the artist struggles to create his art.

Either way, what doesn't change (between reading it as kicking her out or letting the light in for the benefit of seeing her body better) is that she is meant to be looked at and he is the one controlling the situation.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of Nick Cave, his last album was actually in 2008, and I would say context is everything especially with art. Listening to the songs, the lyrics, and reading about the composition of the album helps you realize that the album cover is perfectly in place. The songs are observational and, as usual, eerie but at the same time sensual and progressive.

    The songs go from religious, to repressed, to sensual, to orchestral, to and fro for the entire album. The cover is just an extension of the work and should not be seen separately at all.

    Artists have to be allowed to experiment with ideas and create at their own expense, whether it be a failed attempt or a masterpiece, like his last album which was part fail. No social ideals should be applied to it.

    With this album Cave delivers a very modern social commentary which attempts to simply rebe against relativism and the façade of contemporary life, some could even see the cover as satire.