On the seductive creation of seductive images

Theresa Luise Gindlstrasser on Private Song by Alexandra Bachzetsis
© Mathias Völzke
Theresa Luise Gindlstrasser on Private Song by Alexandra Bachzetsis

The pulp fiction is stuck. In other words: the Rembetiko song “Misirlou”, the ultimate Tarantino “Pulp Fiction” melody, repeats itself, struggles, pushes – so slowly, all the more insistently – into the audience’s ears. And Alexandra Bachzetsis presents herself to this piece of music. The close-fitting, black, floor-length latex dress hugs her body. Latex and dominatrix – two words ending in “x”. Does she present herself? A body in an exposing costume in exposing positions. An ass, a seduction – and what is that look? Look, a word without an “x”, constitutes the challenging arrogance that makes one think of dominatri“x”. Right through to the absent-mindedly swaying lower leg of the woman lying on her stomach – each movement is a little too intended, too executed to be a mere repetition and reproduction of the traditional “woman presenting herself as a sexualised body”. Nonetheless: a seduction.

This paradoxical structure – an image repeating outdated images and yet repeating them in a different way, extracting something from the repetition; and it works along the same lines as the outdated images and yet doesn’t work, somehow works differently – is characteristic of Private Song. Created for documenta 14 in 2017, the sixty-minute performance revolves around the “Rembetiko” genre. So! I consulted (the German) Wikipedia: “[…] is a Greek style of music that emerged from a combination of Greek folk music and the Ottoman musical tradition in the early 20th century in the cities of Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki.” And then Thibault Lac and Sotiris Vasiliou appear from behind the audience. The “boys ex nihilo”. And Lac arranges a small white towel on the kitchen-tile-PVC-stage-rectangle. Carefully brushes the associated beach sand from his feet. Is sprawling. Pauses. Tucks the T-shirt back over the belly that has become exposed.

And starts to sing. A song called “Crazy Gypsy”. This term, this combination of words is no less outdated than “woman as an object”. And no less discriminatory. But that’s not what the scene is about. It confines itself to an irritating framing. Lac assumes one pose after another, a little wobbly throughout, pauses again and looks at the audience – until he continues to sing a few more lines. For the next song, the three of them appear as cowboys. They snap, clap their boots and impetuously throw their legs up in the air. The proper “Greek” way. And so very not the proper way. Nor Greek either. A shifted image, an image that doesn’t make you think: “Greek folk dance, right!”, instead, you ask yourself: “Oh! What do I think when I think ‘Greek’?” With the self-indulgent negligence of the last dancers in a bar late at night, Bachzetsis, Lac and Vasiliou move through duos and bewildering love-triangular trios.

For a medley – the back of the stage is now without a curtain and therefore huge – Vasiliou displays himself as a pop star. With one hand on his trouser pocket and the other imitating the sweeping gestures of kitsch ballad singers, he acts out “enthusiastic fans” and “I sing this song just for you”. “Pulp fiction” par excellence, as it were. And, with reference to Private Song, the aspect of “fiction” is so critical because, in everyday language, “fiction”, as something made, something shaped, is confronted with an unmade, shapeless, somehow bare “reality”. And because Private Song displays the made-ness, shaped-ness – in the performance’s own jargon: the framing – of images as such.

Could something more be said about the performance by juxtaposing “fiction” with “fucking”? I wondered. Perhaps. This form of image production, pointing in the direction of the fictionality of all image production yet still showing the images, is, after all, seriously seductive. It simply works. Works its way into the process of private experiencing. Almost at the end, behind Bachzetsis, who sits and sings, Lac and Vasiliou lift the PVC. That’s the way to create images. Just like that.


Theresa Luise Gindlstrasser studied philosophy, art studies and scenic writing. She works as a journalist, blogger, author.


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