Deniz Kurtel makes dance music. She also creates LED sculptures. Saturday night at Los Globos, Kurtel brought together both of her artistic pursuits for her “Double Exposure” tour. Inside the venue, she played tracks from her latest release, The Way We Live. Right outside the club's patio, partygoers could check out her new installation inside a small trailer.
Called The Introspectacular, the LED piece is constructed from wood and plexiglass, both the clear and mirrored variety. The LEDs are controlled by a small keyboard, with each note triggering new colors and patterns of light. The faster you play, the faster the lights twinkle, reflecting off the mirrors to create the illusion of an endless maze-like room. Many people have told Kurtel that the experience is like stumbling inside a kaleidoscope.
“I just like to get people involved in creating this atmosphere for other people,” Kurtel says. She adds that people often shy away from the keyboard, saying they don't know how to play the instrument. Musical skill, though, isn't required to operate the LEDs. “Whatever you do creates this cool effect,” she stresses. “It encourages people to get into it and be creative.”
It took Kurtel just two weeks to build the structure, but she still tinkers with programming the LEDs. The Introspectacular was created for Art Basel in Miami, where it debuted at her friend's nightclub, Electric Pickle. She hadn't planned to take the structure on the road until she finished her latest album. For the past few weeks, Kurtel has traveled across the United States with The Introspectacular. Los Angeles was the second-to-last stop on the tour.
This isn't the first time Kurtel has taken her LEDs on the road. Two years ago, she created an installation that she had integrated into her live performances. There were problems, though. Sometimes the DJ booths weren't large enough to accommodate the piece. Other times, the club lighting conflicted with the LEDs. Since The Introspectacular is inside a trailer situated outside the venue, Kurtel doesn't have to worry as much about the venues' limitations.
Originally from Turkey, Kurtel attended university in the U.S. She has master's degrees in statistics and policy analysis, although she now focuses on music and art. “I got those two masters and I started working while I was getting my degree, but I lost interest once I started working on the LED projects,” she explains.
Kurtel often is associated with New York-based music collective/record label Wolf + Lamb. In fact, she started working with LEDs after coming into a set that was left over from Wolf + Lamb's Burning Man camp. Her first projects appeared at the collective's parties, attracting enough attention to score Kurtel invitations to gallery shows and festivals.
She says her music and visual art projects aren't necessarily connected. “I'm not stuck on one form of art,” Kurtel explains. “I just like to figure things out and create as many different things as possible.”
Formerly based in New York, Kurtel now lives in both Miami and Berlin. After the last date of the tour, she'll ship The Introspectacular back to her studio in Berlin, where she will continue to work on the piece. Kurtel has had requests to tour the piece throughout Europe, but she thinks that she'll hold off on that for a while. She has a few design improvements she wants to make first.
“I spent hours making this thing perfectly straight and then the mirrors started bending when we started driving,” she says.
Kurtel has had many different responses to her LED sculptures. With previous projects, people have told her they would stop by the installations to meditate after work. There's a similar sense of tranquility with The Introspectacular.
“With all my pieces, I like to create this isolated environment, like when you go inside you get lost from reality a little bit,” Kurtel says, “sort of like a meditation space, however you want to do that or whatever you need it for.”
But whatever someone takes from The Introspectacular is fine with Kurtel. “When you create something like this, everyone is going to get something different out of it,” she says. “None of it is less important than the other.”