Nik Nowak Is Bringing His Part-Tank, Part-DJ-Booth to Gramps for Art Basel

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Nik Nowak is fascinated by bass. A few years ago, this obsession saw Nowak create the Soundpanzer, a mobile tank that unfolds into a studio and subwoofer tower — a weaponized DJ booth of sorts. Now, the Berlin-based artist is bringing his machine across the Atlantic to Wynwood's Gramps to "clash" with legendary Miami producer Bass Mekanik for an exploration of all things — you guessed it — bass.

“The clash will be something unexpected,” Nowak says in German cadence. “It’s interesting. It’s something I’ve never done, to have these preconversations with a collaborator about music and then meet at a particular place and bring together those discussions.

"It will be a clash, but it will be conversational,” he clarifies.

Nowak says his work was partially inspired by the Mike Men, a community of Indians in Trinidad and Tobago who attach massive air raid megaphones to the top of their cars like Mikey Mouse ears and roll around the island blasting music and community announcements.

“They do these sound clashes in the field,” Nowak says, “and they primarily play oldies from India from the '60s. It’s kind of a cultivation or a reminiscence of leaving the home country or leaving against their will since many were brought as contract workers. They use these sound clashes to celebrate or make a ritual around their identity.”
In his quest to emulate the Mike Men, Nowak started small. At first, he tried to take his sound to the street with nothing more than a wheelbarrow-shaped Mobile Booster. It was functional, Nowak says, but too heavy to carry and too wide to fit through a doorway. A few iterations later, he created the Soundpanzer, which is still way too wide to fit through a normal door but embodies Nowak’s interest in sound as a weapon. Plus, it's way more badass than a wheelbarrow.

Although his prior projects revolved around sound installations, Nowak admits he’s been working with club music more often over the past few years which has steered him away from self-satisfying experimentation and toward a more intimate connection with the crowd.

“In the past, I didn’t really need the audience,” Nowak says, “since sound was something I was exploring for myself… But now, it’s way more open for the audience, and I want to be more in a dialogue or exchange with the audience.”

The clash will be accompanied by a “sound-video essay" created by Nowak and his longtime collaborator Mortiz Stumm. The duo usually injects some sociopolitical commentary to its work and, although he doesn’t want to go into details before the show, Nowak gives a hint.

"We have an element that refers to the Berlin Wall and fences in general,” he says. "Maybe you can imagine what that points towards.”

Sennheiser | Soundpanzer Meets the Bass Mekanik. 9 p.m. Wednesday, November 30, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami. Admission is free.

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