(After) Love at Last Sight is a retrospective of works by Berlin-based Turkish performance artist, Nezaket Ekici. Curated by Shaheen Merali, it will encompass a selection of video works of iconic performances alongside photographs and stills from the last 13 years. The exhibition will also feature a three-day performance of her iconic work – Emotion in Motion, transforming part of the space of the Pi Artworks London gallery.
It was after reading Charles Baudelaire’s poem, To a Passer By, that Berlin-based philosopher Walter Benjamin came upon the concept of love at ‘last sight’. The poem served as a catalyst for Benjamin to examine further the mundane encounters that occur within the crowded streets of large cities, and how these fleeting connections with other people – a glance, a moment two eyes lock – are often both our first as well as our last sight of them. As Benjamin later described: “the delight of the city-dweller is love – not at first sight, but at last sight,” or rather, “the final farewell that conincides with the moment of allure.” It is this notion of living in cities, fast becoming the chosen place for millions of people around the globe in which to co-habit, gather, work, shop, travel, see, love and hate, that creates a gross mixure of emotions. We experience a brief moment of love, of desire, before it is surpassed by the next event, for the city acts like a revolving door – on entering the next portal, we forget our last encounter.
It is with these ideas in mind that Pi Artworks London presents the first solo exhibition of works by Nezaket Ekici (born 1970, Kırşehir, Turkey). Few cities can claim to be as large, active and busy as London, and “the performance works of Ekici are neither illustrative of desire nor estrangement – rather, they are processes. Often exhaustive in their duration, they use humour, energy and repetition to create a vision that unfurls a border. At times her performances verge on the painful to watch, absurd encounters that allow the artist to reach a place she calls “creative spaces”. Explains Ekici, “I aim to create art where all of the elements are connected together to form an absolute work of art.” Indeed, it was the Stuttgart-based philosopher Andreas Dammertz who wrote: “Performance is perhaps the only art in our modern times that is able to describe the fast turning world. Performance, having the same speed as the world today by focusing on the moment.”
Within Ekici’s creative spaces many alluring moments come to light – secrets are unveiled, fragments released, layers of fetish exposed and slapstick disturbs cultural heritage. In the hustling, bustling and ever-speeding urban environment in which we live, it is through the performative realm that we are allowed the opportunity to understand some of the evolving and ever-revolving realities that we call living. Performance presents us with a moment to establish an emotional bond with our muse, even as she disappears – we see her passing by, and love her at last sight. Yet the memory of the moment, this moment itself, remains in place of, and as our muse.
At Pi Artworks London, (After) Love at Last Sight will present over 13 years of performance works as videos accompanied by photographic works of varying scale, including Emotion in Motion (2000), Blind (2007), Madonna (2008), Tube Dolomit (2009), Border Inside (2011), Human Cactus (2012) and Disappear (2013). The earliest work, Emotion in Motion, first realised in 2000, will be performed by the artist in the gallery over three days and its relics will remain in the space with a video performance from its fourth venue in Milan (2002). During the performance Ekici covers an installed living space filled with personal objects and accessories with kisses. The trace of her lipstick forms a patina of affection – or is it consumption that she exposes? The work conveys many layered meanings, but what strikes us is how an act, normally associated with love and greeting, has been twisted into a never-ending moment of torture in Ekici’s valiant attempt to cover the whole space. Emotion in Motion is a powerful process that reminds one of pain as well as delineating the duress of love and its universal worship. The walls, furniture, objects and even the artist’s clothes all turn lipstick-red, a triumphant memento mori of desire and perhaps, just perhaps, also the beginning of the end of love at last sight.