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 erratic rabbit hole hellbent to subvert the conventions of the obscene.

The stage is minimal and comprises a red corner, a yellow wall and two short, white stairways that serve as seating – imagine Mondriaan and De Chirico collaborating on a stage design.

The performers themselves appear, looking fabulously close to archetypical porn tropes.

Enter the MILF. Red lips, red leotard, red nails, red Louboutins. Smooth movements, enigmatic regard. For her, a metal barricade becomes a ballet barre facilitating repeating sequences inspired by rhythmic gymnastics just as much as by striptease.

Enter the cowboy. His calm gaze cheekily glancing 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 tiny brunette. Wearing a men’s shirt and nothing else. She looks like she just woke up at her current lover’s place. She flexes her muscles smoothly transitioning 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 coquets with the camera and the viewer behind.

Enter the Chippendale sailor. Effortlessly polished movements give way to an awkward uncoordinated array of physical operations…

Yet now suddenly a 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 a play? A vain gigolo shrouds himself in a cloud 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 tiny brunette engage in an erotic play fight. Are they lovers? Friends? Rivals? Objects?

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

2020: Obscene was created precisely during those 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 radically altering and expanding the meaning and experience of the obscene in the private and the public realm. The impossibility of touch catapulted our online presences into never before reached heights, 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 emotion while questioning the obscene?

Bachzetsis drags us through dream-like tableaus (or perhaps more like drug-induced hallucinations?) while astutely and cunningly executing exercises of constructing and rejecting conventions on cults, be it the body cult or youth cult; on relationships, their drama and the psychological warfare; on artistic formats: such as exhibitions, theatre or film while never forgetting about 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 stage design, costumes, songs, lyrics, spoken word and dances as scores and bodies as instruments executing and varying 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 the delivery of texts. A monologue first spoken by an enraged woman is suddenly utterly distorted in its perception when rendered by a man. The constructions of “man” and “woman” are exaggerated, almost to the extent of becoming caricatures, in turn even more swiftly exposing our own hard-to-shed biases. Especially for those of us who grew up with a clear reference-signifier relation, meaning for example, that your taste for music clearly defined what you had to wear. The pastiched personae and the calculated confusion they create easily resonate in a time where – for good or for worse – anything seems to go.


Laura Amann (AT/CL 1986) is a curator and architect living and working in Vienna. She is a graduate of de Appel Curatorial Programme, Amsterdam and the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna and is currently part of the curatorial team of Kunsthalle Wien alongside WHW collective. Amann was the curator of Significant Other, a project space and curatorial platform concerned with the overlaps of art and architecture. More recent projects look respectively at madness and insanity as forms of knowledge and at acts of joy, intimacy, desire and sensuality and how they produce spaces for disobedience.