The Park Avenue Armory’s summer installations have long been a highlight of the New York art season. In the past decade, the industrial grandeur of the 55,000 sq ft Wade Thompson Drill Hall has served as a stage for a wide range of installations and performances, including Paul McCarthy’s Disney-inspired ‘WS’; site-specific concerts from The XX, Taryn Simon’s ‘An Occupation of Loss’; and ‘Hansel & Gretel’, the shared effort from Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Ai Weiwei.

Joining the ranks this year is the Chicago-based artist Nick Cave who has created ‘The Let Go’ – a celebratory performance that invites visitors to participate in a shared, dance-based cathartic experience. Cave has transformed the storied venue into a colourful dance-hall, with two 40ft tall curtains festooned with shimmering Mylar streamers that represent the sense of liberty that takes over when people simple let themselves go. Armed with dancers, live music and an open invitation for visitors to participate, the large-scale, multi-sensory experience knows little precedent.

‘In today’s tumultuous world, Nick’s artistic vision and desire to build understanding through dance is more vital than ever,’ says Rebecca Robertson, the Park Avenue Armory’s founding president and executive producer. ‘By harnessing and cultivating the power of community, this commission serves as a spirited reminder of our shared humanity.’

The installation has been programmed with two sets of experiences. By day, visitors and community organisations alike are welcome to take part in games of Twister and Soul Train lines lead by dancers to help vent their frustrations, while set to both a recorded soundtrack and live music spun from a DJ tower also of Cave’s design.

By night, Cave conducts a troupe of dancers, who don his signature soundsuits and perform to accompaniment by baritone Jorrell Williams and the Sing Harlem Choir. As a continuing feature in Cave’s body of work, these wearable sculptures intentionally conceal gender, race, age and class, thus upholding Cave’s longtime commitment to challenge traditional concepts of visual art.

Photography: James Ewing

These Up Right performances, which feature new choreography and music, are precluded by the ceremonial delivery of the soundsuits to the Drill Hall, an initiation of disassembling and reconstructing the suits around the wearer, piece by piece.

‘“The Let Go” is a testament to Nick’s unwavering commitment to uplifting communities and affecting change through art,’ says Tom Eccles, curator of ‘The Let Go’. ‘His participatory performances have become some of the most beloved experiences to be found in the contemporary art landscape.’ §