With all the world-class concerts and dance parties complementing the art fair and gallery action, Art Basel Miami Beach is becoming the perfect marriage of art and music.
And none of the myriad international luminaries visiting Miami this week embody that more than Deniz Kurtel. She might be best known as a globetrotting EDM star -- 2011's "new queen of house" by DJ Mag's estimation -- but Kurtel is also an accomplished visual artist working in the medium of LED installations.
So what better opportunity for Kurtel to showcase both her talents than Art Basel? And she'll be doing exactly that at Get Lost this weekend, unveiling a new large-scale LED installation at the Electric Pickle, while also joining the party's sizable lineup of star DJs.
Crossfade caught up with Miss Kurtel ahead of the show to talk about working in multiple mediums, this new installation, and her latest musical projects.
Crossfade: How did growing up in Turkey shape your artistic and musical sensibilities? And how did moving to New York City impact you afterwards?
Deniz Kurtel: It was mainly my parents that helped shape my artistic and musical side. I was exposed to a lot of art through my mother, who was going to art school when I was very little, and later started teaching art and has had art galleries and art centers and always tried to include me and my sister in all her activities. My musical sensibilities were probably shaped mainly by my father's taste and studying piano growing up. After moving to NYC, I discovered the club/dance/party culture and indulged in that music for a while.
You were a visual artist before you got into music. How did you first begin working with the medium of LED/light sculptures?
I started off making LED installations for the Wolf + Lamb parties, and then got invited to a couple of festivals and galleries and started making bigger-scale projects.
So how did you transition into electronic music production and DJing?
It was just one of those things I picked up for fun, just like LEDs. I didn't have any plans to turn it into a career or even to release any of it. But I have lots of DJ and producer friends so I guess word got around and Damian Lazarus was curious to hear my tracks. I had only made three or four at that time. He suggested I make an album and that's when I started focusing more and more of my time on music production and shifted away from LED art a little bit, but still did a few projects here and there. I had never DJed before (still don't), so when Damian told me that I should go on tour to support my music, I started playing live.
What can you tell us about your installation art piece that will be displayed at the Electric Pickle during Get Lost Art Basel? What is the concept behind it and will this be an interactive audio/visual piece?
It's very much in line with the rest of my work, involving see-through mirrors and LEDs. For this first event it will be only visual. Then I'm planning to try out some sound elements and also introduce an interactive MIDI interface where viewers can also control some of the LEDs. This piece is going to be installed inside a trailer, so it will stay in Miami until WMC. I want to keep working on it and changing it around and I'm planning on showing it at the Electric Pickle for some of the Wolf + Lamb events throughout this winter.
What relation, if any, do your visual art and music have? What different forms of expression or creativity do each of these mediums provide for you?
I started combining them two years ago, for my first live tour. I built an LED installation that responds to my music. I enjoyed that project -- it was a fun challenge and I learned a lot from it. But I don't try to combine the two in all my projects now -- I like keeping them separate sometimes. I think I'm usually interested in immersing people into a certain mood or state of mind with both the music and the LEDs.
Are you first and foremost a visual artist or a musician? Do you see either discipline taking a dominant role for you in the future?
I don't know. It goes in waves. Sometimes I have to focus on music and sometimes on LEDs, depending on what projects I have on my plate. But I don't see myself as mainly a musician or a visual artist, but as an artist in general, and I see these art forms as different channels for my creativity, which may keep evolving.
What have been your personal highlights of 2011? And what's in store for you next?
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My debut album came out in the beginning of this year which was pretty exciting. And I got a new place in Berlin where I put in my music/art studio and that was something I was looking forward to for a while. Another highlight was having the opportunity to make music with a lot of my friends over the summer and spring, including Tanner Ross, Pillow Talk, Greg Oreck, Gadi Mizrahi, Wolf + Lamb, Voices of Black and Chaim, which I'm planning to release as a collaboration album soon on Wolf + Lamb. Next is finishing up this album, and I'm planning a road tour in the US with my LED installation in April, starting with WMC in Miami and ending in California. I'm also designing a club in Istanbul that is scheduled to open in February, so looks like it will be a super busy year from the start.
Crosstown Rebels present Get Lost Art Basel. Sunday, December 4. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.