TQW Magazin
Laura Amann on 2020: Obscene by Alexandra Bachzetsis

Choose your fighter


Choose your fighter

If Bachzetsis’ practice is characterized by the construction and subsequent rejection of reality, personae, gender, formats and references, then in 2020: Obscene she throws all these categories in the blender and presses the “turbo” button.

Bachzetsis takes us on a 90-minute wild ride down an abnormal rabbit hole, hell-bent on subverting the conventions of the obscene. The stage design is minimalist, comprising a red corner, a yellow wall and two short, white stairways that serve as seating – imagine Mondriaan and De Chirico collaborating on a stage set. The performers themselves look fabulously close to archetypical porn tropes.

Enter the MILF. Red lips, red leotard, red nails, red Louboutins. Smooth movements, an enigmatic gaze. A metal barricade becomes a ballet barre to help her repeat sequences inspired by rhythmic gymnastics just as much as striptease.

Enter the Cowboy. Cheekily looking out from under his wide-brimmed hat. The protective leather chaps he is wearing reveal his jean-clad buttocks – not unlike the suggestive crotchless black tights MILF is sporting.

Enter the Petite Brunette. Wearing a men’s shirt and nothing else. She looks as if she has just woken up at her current lover’s place. She flexes her muscles, smoothly transitioning the movements into a martial art combo only to end up strutting across the stage as if on a catwalk. Later she will become a cam-girl artfully combining her innocent looks with an erotic gaze as she flirts with the camera and the viewer beyond.

Enter the Chippendale Sailor. Effortlessly polished movements give way to an awkward, uncoordinated array of bodily motions…

And then there is a sudden glitch in the matrix: we get a glimpse into Bachzetsis’ meta structure: one of the performers goes on a rant about the choreographer, her waning relevance, her pathetic yet all-too-real fear of getting old, even commenting on the funding-driven decisions that ultimately shape her vision.

Back to reality or was it just play? A vain Gigolo envelops himself in a cloud of perfume before erupting into a melancholy ballad. Laughter turns into crying. Sensual striptease moves give way to traditional “Greek” dance. Not far away, MILF and Petite Brunette engage in an erotic play fight. Are they lovers? Friends? Rivals? Objects?

A human disco ball appears and entrances with its out of the world sparkles.
Until the light source dies.

2020: Obscene was created precisely in the months that turned out to be the last before the pandemic hit and the first when it had already done so. During that time, the mere idea of touching another body seemed obscene enough in and of itself, hence the meaning and experience of the obscene in the private and the public realm was radically altered and expanded. The impossibility of touch increased our online presences to an unprecedented extent, catalyzing tendencies of extreme self-representation, self-commodification and over-sexualization. Against this context, Bachzetsis asks herself how to be subversive in the face of convention: How to reject certain formats while still engaging in them, how to construct the image and ultimately emotions while questioning the obscene?

Bachzetsis takes us through dream-like tableaux (or possibly drug-induced hallucinations?) while astutely and cunningly executing exercises of constructing and rejecting conventions on cults, be it the body cult or the youth cult; on relationships, their drama and psychological warfare; on artistic formats such as exhibitions, theatre or film while never failing to remember the fun and pleasure of acting these out.

Bachzetsis draws from a vast and varied treasure trove of pop references ranging from hit songs to movie dialogues, treating the stage set, costumes, songs, lyrics, spoken words and dances as scores and bodies as instruments that execute and vary them. Her characters are fluid, not only in their gender performance and sexuality but also in the transformations of their movements, the interpretation of songs and delivery of texts. A monologue first spoken by an enraged woman becomes utterly distorted in our perception when rendered by a man. The constructions of “man” and “woman” are exaggerated, almost to the extent of becoming caricatures, thereby exposing our own hard-to-shed biases even more expeditiously. Especially for those of us who grew up with a clear-cut relation between reference and signifier, meaning, for example, that your taste in music clearly defined what you had to wear. The pastiched personae and the calculated confusion they create easily resonate in a time where – for better or worse – apparently anything goes.


Laura Amann, is a Chilean-Austrian curator and architect living and working in Vienna. A graduate of De Appel’s Curatorial Programme, Amsterdam and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, she is currently a member of the curatorial team of Kunsthalle Wien alongside WHW collective. Amann was curator of Significant Other, a project space and curatorial platform exploring the overlaps of art and architecture. In recent projects, she has examined madness and insanity as forms of knowledge, as well as acts of joy, intimacy, desire and sensuality, and how they produce spaces for disobedience.