This year’s PERFORMA 07 performance art festival has been a windfall of offbeat events that test the limits of a medium that is inherently irreverent. One of the most peculiar of the lot was Serkan Özkaya’s Bring Me The Head Of… at Freemans restaurant in the Lower East Side.
Working with Freemans chef Jean Adamson, Özkaya presented the U.S. premiere of his performance as part of the restaurant’s weekday lunch menu. It was a piece curated by Performa’s Defne Ayas — though I can only imagine what her role in this context would mean; did she pick the restaurant? The cynical side of me thinks the selection of Freemans’ lunch time menu was as much a ploy to drive traffic to a locale otherwise deserted for the second meal of the day. Regardless, conceived as an artwork, half the “performance” of this dish is out of sight of the viewer, since it is assembled and prepared in the kitchen but still, one imagines or hopes, under the magical hand of an artist that was intimately involved in its original creation. I personally had fantasies of Özkaya adding the finishing touches to each plate before it exited the kitchen (perhaps I have seen Ratatouille too many times).
Now for my confession: I am a devout fan of Freemans and knew little if anything of Özkaya’s work before this performance. I had seen his collaboration with the New York Times, but knew little else of the Istanbul-based artist. I arrived at the restaurant expecting a sumptuous feast, eager to try what was put on my plate and hoping my food allergies (nuts mostly) wouldn’t interfere in my aesthetic experience. With only the name to go on, I imagined that Özkaya and Adamson had concocted some head-like dish composed of elements as attractive as they are delectable — a higher-order artisanal tofurkey I surmised. The title of the work made me think of Salome and her deadly, consuming desire for St. John the Baptist which eventually spelled his end. “This has got to be interesting,” I anticipated.
I walked down Freemans’ quirky alley entrance and picked my table in a half empty restaurant, awaiting my lunch companion. I looked at the menu to discover that Özkaya’s dish was confined to dessert and not the main course as the name, I thought, suggested. Bring Me The Head of… for dessert, huh?
Click here to read the rest of the review (and more pictures) at the ArtCal zine, where it was originally published today.
Serkan Özkaya’ s “Bring Me the Head of…”
October 27-November 20, 2007