Inadvertantly influenced by her mother - an active and influential art curator, gallerist and professor in Turkey - the now New York-based musician and LED sculpture artist, Deniz Kurtel, creates computer-programmed designs which have been the centrepieces to countless Wolf + Lamb label parties in Brooklyn, appeared in art festivals/exhibitions such as Burning Man and Communikey, and also provides the backdrop to her live gigs and DJ sets. Her new album, 'Music Watching Over Me', is due out on Damian Lazarus' Crosstown Rebels label this year, arriving after two finely crafted EPs as a showcase of her wide experimentation with genres across the electronic spectrum. Whilst her newest piece, an interactive LED installation fronts London's Lucy in Disguise boutique this Spring.
Dazed Digital: How did this installation come about?
Deniz Kurtel: I knew Kim and Sarah from parties and stuff, I saw them in New York a few months ago at the Rivington, they just happened to be around and they just mentioned it there that they'd really like me to just do like a light installation for their new store. Apparently Playstation was interested in finding some kind of creative installation and I had this kinda thing in mind anyway so I started making it. Originally the idea was for London Design Week but we decided to do it in-store now...
DD: So what’s the concept behind this piece?
Deniz Kurtel: I normally never work in bright environments like for this window. This thing is meant to be for the dark, but I just wanted to make something that works for night and day. It's so bright right now, but in a few hours all the colours will be so much nicer. It’s like a weird, plex-y thing like blinds covering the mannequins between them which fits with the whole 'Lucy in Disguise' theme - so it was just a couple ideas coming together casually.
DD: How did you learn how to use LED lights?
Deniz Kurtel: Zev from Wolf + Lamb was the one who got interested in them first, right before we went to Burning Man in 2005 and he bought a set to use there - and then he kinda lost interest after we got back and I was getting into them. He just gave me his set and showed me that it’s pretty easy to use it on that level, and now I’m learning a lot more… but at that point we were just using simple software that lets you pre-program the lights. Now I'm controlling it directly from my computer with its own programming language which gives you a lot more flexibility. The idea for the pieces for ym live shows is to link them with sound – but here, the idea is to link it with motion. It's motion sensitive so people walking by at night can see it...
DD: Are you still using them for your live shows too?
Deniz Kurtel: Last year I did for my tour but I didn’t use it for this year because it’s a pretty big piece and it takes a lot of hours to set it up, and you need a proper stage. It proved very difficult to execute, but I didn’t want to make just a tiny installation that wouldn’t have the same effect – I wanted a whole big background to my performance like this 2 metre long piece behind me. It looks really nice, but is only for bigger clubs – like Fabric was great 'cause they have a massive stage. I’m thinking of maybe doing another tour with a newer installation this summer – I learnt a lot, now it's a bit simpler, easier to install.
DD: So did you have a background in Art?
Deniz Kurtel: I didn’t study Art but my mother’s a very active artist - she’s an art professor, has an art gallery, art residency... like so many things going on and she likes to include us in everything. She was studying Art when I was growing up and would always take us everywhere she had to go – to art events, or whenever she had to go for big projects, touring, she’d take us. I guess you always have these things affect your subconscious, but I didn’t think I was gonna be like an 'artist'. I didn’t study it, so it wasn't exactly planned…
DD: So was your interest in electronic music a bit later on, after you moved to New York?
Deniz Kurtel: I was always into music, always loved going out dancing - now we don't have so much time once you start doing it – I don’t want to say as a 'job', but this is what we do – so we don’t really get to go out and see other people and enjoy it like we used to.
Photos by Rob Low
See Denis Kurtel's new installation at Lucy in Disguise, London, 10-13 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8HN. Her album is out on Crosstown Rebels on the 14th March 2011.