Positioned at the threshold of multiple moments in histories of art, theater and choreography, Alexandra Bachzetsis proposes the body as a conceptual and physical form that is at once medium, process and substance, as she situates it “in-between” disciplinary spaces and histories. Bachzetsis embraces strategies of citation and appropriation to construct choreographies of the body that explore the ways popular culture provides source material for gesture, expression, identification, and desire as we continually create and re-create our bodies and identities.
The performative languages in Bachzetsis’s work since the early 2000s are fundamentally intersectional. Collaging and borrowing from diverse sources including popular music, cinema and television, fashion, advertising, online video clips, the history of art and photography, literature, architecture, sport, and pornography, Bachzetsis scrutinizes these systems of representation that together form the fabric of contemporary culture. Bachzetsis’s deconstructive approach to traditional forms of art and critique of representation within popular culture aligns her work with legacies of Pop Art and artists associated with the 1970s and 1980s Pictures Generation. Yet, Bachzetsis insists on the physical body as the site where culture becomes embodied knowledge and behavior. Frequently laying bare the foundations of patriarchy, the body is a point of convergence for Bachzetsis, as well as a site of digestion and the grounds on which to expel and collapse gender-normativity and misogyny, further anchoring her work in the rich tradition of feminist and queer (performance) art.
The ways in which movements and gestures manifest in various traditions of dance is another
central motif in Bachzetsis’s work. The codes and techniques embedded in specific (sub)cultures, such as vogueing, pole dancing, R&B, club dance, et cetera, are performed alongside more established dance traditions, e.g. ballet or the task-based choreography of post-modern dance, and incorporated into non-dance movement vocabularies, for instance sports and fashion modeling.
What appear as brief moments of virtuosity are quickly disrupted, marking the recurrent presence of non-spectacle and the anti-virtuosic in Bachzetsis’s performances—expressions of how constitutive the choreographic practices of Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, Simone Forti and Anna Halprin have been for the generation of artist-choreographers of which Bachzetsis is a part. This transference of choreographic history is further enacted in the system of transmission that underpins the collaboration between Bachzetsis and her performers. The choreographic arrangements in her pieces are often developed in close dialogue with the performers, and gestures and movements are transferred from one body to another in the space of rehearsal, in keeping with a common practice in dance where embodied knowledge is passed on through a sequence of observation, repetition and enactment. As such, for Bachzetsis, the body is as much a space of memory as it is a site of projection, vis-à-vis the relationship between the artist and her performers as well as the manifold references and bodies that materialize in her work.
Text by Hendrik Folkerts
Excerpts of this text have been published in the essay «A Stage of Continuous Collapse» (in: Time After Time, Space After Space: Simone Forti, Alexandra Bachzetsis, Adelita Husni-Bey, Paulina Olowska, Christian Marclay, edited by Bruna Roccasalva (Milan: Mousse Publishing, 2019).