Once in a while, a groundbreaking artistic collaboration happens that defies rules and mediums. Last month, multi-disciplinary fine artist, Item Idem, debuted his sculpture of a car (titled FELON) and invited his friend, Venus X, to DJ on it. The results were stunning. The event, sponsored by MILK Studios and Ford Fusion, revolved around the theme of "fusion," which was present in every detail of the piece, including the construction, colors, and range of music during Venus' set.
Item Idem and Venus X stopped by Complex to interview each other about the experience of working on the piece, all in the context of a greater New York City art revival. From Item Idem's artistic explorations of consumerism to Venus X's GHE20 G0TH1K party, the two are at the pulse of what's fresh and moving culture. According to them, something special is happening in NYC, and after hearing them out, we absolutely agree.
Interview as told to Cedar Pasori (@cpasori).
The warehouse was the perfect space to be wild and crazy. We weren’t even a point on the map — it was illegal.
Item Idem: When I first started developing this project with Milk, I had the idea of designing a mutant car. I love industrial design, so creating a car was an obsession of mine for a long time. I then wanted to activate it as an environment, so that it would be culturally dynamic. #BEEN #TRILL was scheduled to play the event, so I suggested that they play on it, thereby using my piece as a receptacle; however, there are five members of #BEEN #TRILL, and the car was kind of shaky, so I suggested somebody that I know, respect, and love to be part of this project. The answer was obvious, and I chose Venus. The producers were really excited to have her involved. She came, DJed, and rocked the party.
Aside from the fact that I really like Venus as a person and as an artist, I wanted somebody who was really relevant to New York. When the piece traveled to LA, I did the same. I had Ashland Mines (a.k.a. Total Freedom) DJ, who is amazing and more than relevant to the city. For me, that was the best way to initiate a strong connection with the audience.
Venus X: Would you build another one?
Item Idem: For you, of course!
Venus X: I really liked it. For me, it was really nerve-racking to be up there with all those lights. It was the craziest attention monster. Compared to all the holograms and other things happening in the room, I just thought, “What am I gonna do? What language am I going to speak to them from this cart?” I just felt like I was doing this tropical experiment with people there. It’s funny because depending on where you DJ and how you’re presented to the audience, you have more or less freedom.
It was one of the most nervous experiences of my life, but I also felt like I haven’t been that experimental in a while, at least since last summer when I was throwing warehouse parties. The warehouse was the perfect space to be wild and crazy. Nobody cared what we did there. We weren’t even a point on the map — it was illegal. Now, after a year of moving around to different spaces and clubs, with kids that aren’t familiar with the music that I play or with the spaces that I play in, I’ve had to curb my set a lot. It’s interesting as a DJ to play in urban settings for people who are used to radio music. Whereas #BEEN #TRILL was playing a lot of recognizable hits, trap music, and other music that’s trending, there was space for other kinds of music to come into the conversation. I felt really empowered by the structure I was standing on. I had to give a show that was as bright as those lights!
Item Idem: It made me very happy that the piece got to be activated. It’s a sculpture, but then it became a social sculpture through its activation process. Without Venus performing on it, the piece would have been nothing, really. It was magnified in the context of a gallery show.
Venus X: It’s cool that there’s a piece of art existing in the world that was paid for by Ford and made by a genuine artist — one that we can play The Weeknd on and remix with juke. It covers everything, from the most underground musical genres to the most well-known, viral hits, plus your gallery needs. It was a really big moment.
Item Idem: I asked Venus to do it, because she has a special ability to understand the way things cross over and a vast knowledge of music. She can play for club parties, but now the art world also adores her. She played at MoMA and at K8 Hardy’s fashion show at the Whitney Biennial. She can bounce between all types of club aesthetics, but she can also do sound illustration and composing. Last June, I had an art show in Paris, and Venus made a special soundtrack for it on the theme of money, using plenty of found footage from YouTube and CNN, among others, and a recording of a stripper getting bills in her bra. She’s highly creative; that’s what I’m trying to say. I knew she would make something that would be smart.