Writer_Patrick Benjamin Heardman
- The Turkish Pi Artworks’ second Exhibition introduces the UK debut of Turkish performance artist Nezaket Ekici. Her latest work (After) Love at Last Sight takes audience participation to a whole new level, writes Patrick Benjamin Heardman.
Stepping into the gallery there is an immediately arresting sight: a graceful middle-aged woman dressed in a nightgown is kissing everything. It is Nezaket using the press of her lips to cover the back of the entirely white bedroom style space in her lustrous red lipstick. It is exhausting to watch, not only due to the passionate manner in which she kisses, but also because of the hundreds of lip marks already adorning the walls. By this point it has been her occupation for the past three days.
With such a strong focus on self, it would be easy to assume Nezaket’s work is a narcissistic exercise. She is unfailing in being the main physical subject in the entirety of her exhibition. However there is a very charming quality about her performances, which do not isolate the viewer but instead invite them to approach the artwork and actively interpret them. It is difficult for anyone to not have a reaction to, for example, a grown woman dressed in a human cactus suit crushing rocks in her hand as she did in a previous work.
Without warning, Nezaket climbs down from her ladder, used to reach the high corners, walks across the room and kisses me on the cheek. If her other pieces merely imply audience engagement, here Nezaket actively realises audience participation. Along with everyone else present, I have become part of her performance in bearing a glossy red smear on my right cheek. This is a brilliant touch. Her art has come alive; it has left the walls, the desk, the chair, the mirror and is now walking around the room in all different directions.
When I manage to catch Nezaket at the culmination of her three day stint of non-stop kissing, I notice the lipstick stains around her mouth are merging with blood. Her chin, protruding past her lips, is grazed after so many hours of kissing different surfaces. I ask her why she decided to kiss me and she explains that she wanted to share something private and intimate with her audience. There certainly was a unity within the gallery and her very personable character shines through in her performances. I suggest to her that perhaps the kiss is a sign of love at last sight, as she is probably never going to see me again. However Nezaket is quick to cite that the title of the exhibition (After) Love at Last Sight is a paradox in that the kiss is not a token of goodbye but an invitation into her artistic world.