Bob Faust and Nick Cave: Here to Facilitate
Walking into the Facility library space you realize that it is all about nesting—burrowing into a comfy spot and luxuriating in coziness. There’s a massive bookcase with books of all shapes and sizes, many of which are organized by color, creating small bright corners. There are chunky art books, whose commanding presence is hard to disregard. There are spots deliberately left empty. And there are small sculptures throughout. A small wooden ladder leans on one side, climbing up the higher shelves. The walls surrounding the space feature original artwork mixed with vintage treasures, creating unexpected aesthetic combinations and as the mid-century-modern vibe is palpable, one thing comes to mind: to curl up with a cup of coffee in one hand and a book—any book—in the other. Nick Cave describes Facility as a stress-free studio. “When you enter the building, we want there to be a warmness right when you come in,” he says. He and Bob Faust, his partner in work and in life, have put a lot of thought into every detail. “Walking in, you would never know what’s behind those walls. You would never know that people live upstairs,” Cave says. “That’s all very important. It’s like creativity is protected and the space becomes a sacred space. It’s important to us to maintain that.”
Beyond the library space, the studio is bustling. “The studio can fluctuate—we now have six people in here but we’ve had thirty, depending on the project. We also rearrange the space and move things around a lot,” Cave says. Taking different forms—a gallery, a design studio, a mini-factory, a common space with big-leafed plants lined up that bring the outside in—Facility has always been a transdisciplinary space, Cave says. “If it has to be in clay it has to be in clay. We can’t be so bogged down in one medium that’s gonna answer all the damn questions—and artists don’t do that anymore.”
Cave’s energy is contagious. “There’s a world out there and it’s interesting how people forget that and they stay in these silos and they function within boundaries, you know? And that’s why it’s so important for young people or whoever to know that the moment you get outside of that familiar comfort zone, and into a different place or time or space or city, you see life differently.”
With that in mind they decided to combine their studios and to move Cave’s Studio, Faust Associates and $oundsuit$hop into a single space. “We said, why don’t we take that idea to this new initiative and really plant it in Chicago?” says Faust. “So we named the building Facility, which clearly has that connotation to the old art-world Andy Warhol idea, but more importantly calling it Facility, we were talking about its role as facilitating others,” he says. “The other thing that’s super-cool and you notice it with every one of the titles of the shows that we’ve been doing, is that they all have a double reading—so you have facility as the place, you have facility as to facilitate and you also have the idea that movement is such a big part of the work. Dance is such a big part of the work and at the core of all of that is a dancer’s facility or the body—and so it has these three kinds of reads within the name of the building and that’s where that comes from.”
“Nick’s practice always had community involvement to some degree. And so the whole idea is to use this space as a place of opportunity to these people that you see that are extraordinary that haven’t had the break,” Faust says. “It’s the main hub that has stationed and settled itself in Chicago, but at the same time connects to the global world,” adds Cave, who considers himself fortunate to be able to work in this vast world. (“I go into it eyes wide open but, you know, boots on the ground,” he says.) Chicago “already is this thing—the place where inventors live and so many things have been invented, I mean, historically and right now, too, this is where there’s really interesting things being made in all of the design disciplines, in the art world and everything,” says Faust, who’s been thinking a lot about the city as a fertile ground for experimentation mostly because of that Midwest mentality. “Here, you can present something and fail and Chicago still wants to see your next go but in New York you present, you fail, you’re done,” he says.
Cave sees New York as a distraction. “Here I can get quiet and getting quiet allows me to come face-to-face with a lot of truth and so I wouldn’t change it. I like being here and I like everyone knowing that I am here and that we are here, but we’re working out there. Chicago is a fabulous place to be,” he says. “And having quiet is where the most exciting work takes place, right? That’s when you make leaps in your work,” says Faust, adding that one has to put roots somewhere—to have groundedness in order to be able to establish connections and have people feel connected to you.
That is where Facility exists: in the blurred line between quiet and art world’s “globalness.” “It’s all about possibility. Facility is that revolving door—nothing’s permanent, nothing will ever be permanent, and so [the question is] how do you keep it revolving, how do you keep yourself relevant, how do you create possibilities and at the same time allow others to approach it however they choose? That’s what we’re interested in,” Cave says.
To turn their vision into reality, they’re keeping busy building their scholarship fund. Cave stresses the impact of what that kind of support offers to an individual. “I remember when I won my little first award,” he says. “It’s like everything is possible at that moment. It gives you the green light to step into it even further.” They’re also working with the next generation of Chicago creatives. “We have been doing workshops at different universities; we’ve been brought in to talk about collaboration,” says Faust. “Collaboration is about vulnerability, and so that’s what we’ve been going in and doing: we’re getting different disciplines of students in the same room, pairing them up, and saying, ‘really get to know this person, what did they do, what is their expertise, what is their point of view and really listen to that and how does that change your work?’”
The most important part? “We want all of them in the room. Everyone. Across all disciplines—from the arts, to theater to music to dance to writing,” says Cave, stressing each word. “Because let me tell you something: at the end of the day they’re always in the room. We can’t have this tunnel vision—we have to open ourselves up.” Faust believes that “when you’re as confident in your work and the world is looking at your work in that kind of way it allows him as an artist to be more generous with his platform,” he says of Cave. “A lot of times, there’s a fear that if you give up some of that platform, it might take away from how your own work is received. But Nick’s work is so strong and so solid, that he’s able to be super-generous. What that does for other artists is amazing—it’s an opportunity to make your work in and around this other work, with the only stipulation being that you need to push yourself to do something that you’re not so comfortable with.”
Nobody is immune to that enthusiastic collaboration vibe—not even the founders themselves. “We’re so used to being on a computer monitor constantly, so when you turn around and you’re literally adjacent to the studio assistants hand-stitching, you feel the energy of making and that changes the way you think—it is profound, that change,” says Faust. He feels blessed to be working with Cave these past years, as he’s been able to make work and get it out in a bigger and louder way, which is exciting. “See, I said that about you,” he playfully adds, and we all laugh. But Cave is fast to admit that he doesn’t even need to think about the design around his work. “It’s always flawless because this one will be ramping up to the next level,” he says.
Cave and Faust live just upstairs in an apartment that’s equal parts homey and minimal, and, unsurprisingly, filled with art. The key to achieve work-life balance? Respect, they agree. “I respect his space, I respect his studio and, vice-versa, he respects mine as well,” says Cave. “We come to work every morning—it’s downstairs but we got to go to work—and we have to be very present in terms of keeping all operations up and running. But then we’ll come up here to eat, hang out, chill—I can walk away from the studio in an instant, he can walk away in an instant and we can just hang out.”
“In the same respect, it also never is gone or turned off because we love what we do, and so we might be out doing something that has nothing related to work, and then you see something that’s inspiring, and we both can go directly to why that’s important, or why that’s interesting, or why that can make a difference in the next project, and that’s fun, and that only happens because we’re working adjacent to each other all the time, and so, by osmosis, you’re fully aware of what the other person is doing,” says Faust in a single breath. Yes, they’re always working but only in the sense that they’re always looking for new ways of thinking and looking at stuff, they explain. “We’re surrounded by art 24/7 so that’s all that’s important—to be living in your destiny,” says Cave.
On Thursday, April 2, the Chicago Artists Coalition holds its forty-fifth anniversary benefit, honoring artists Nick Cave and Bob Faust. Tickets at chicagoartistscoalition.org
From April 3-12, Navy Pier hosts a new, free public art installation by Nick Cave entitled “The Let Go.” Details at navypier.org/event/nick-cave-the-let-go/
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