PRIVATE: Wear a Mask When You Talk to Me
Through a series of gestures and bodily rituals, Alexandra Bachzetsis‘ [CH] solo «PRIVATE: Wear a Mask When You Talk to Me» investigates how sexual identities and desires are reproduced in everyday life. The piece, which premiered in 2016, is now part of the choreographer’s tour in South America, with performances taking place in Buenos Aires [AR], São Paulo [BR], and Bogotá [CO] during November 2022.
Alexandra draws inspiration from fields of mainstream media, like fashion or the entertainment world, to explore body language, poses, costumes and props determined by clichés of popular culture. Throughout the performance, one can see references to advertisements, fitness routines, Michael Jackson’s moves, yoga positions, drag queen gestures, or even porn films.
As usual in the artist’s work, she investigates how gender and sexual identity are expressed by movement and fabricated through ritualised repetition of bodily gestures; how the human body is codified by mainstream media and the fine arts. In an approach that pays homage to Trisha Brown’s choreographic experiments, Alexandra examines the images of “femininity”, analysing the processes of depersonalisation, transition, and change, and how the fluid boundaries of beings are constantly deconstructed by stereotyped roles.
“«PRIVATE» does not mobilise techniques of parody that have been developed within feminist and queer cultures during the last years. It doesn’t aim to represent the process of embodiment of gender and sexual norms, but rather it explores the instances of performative failure and inner transition that allow for agency and resistance to emerge,” defines writer and philosopher Paul B. Preciado, who acted as a research curator for the piece.
“[The piece] is a timeless hymn to transitions. A notation of its inner development, but also a mourning sketch for possibilities that were once open but can no longer be realised. In the end, this dance is not about normative gender performativity, but rather about the somatic energy that allows us to introduce moments of what Jacques Derrida called ‘improvisatory anarchy’ in order to interrupt history and trigger cultural change and political transformation.”
«PRIVATE» is also a constantly evolving project. It recently engendered the performance «Private Song», presented at documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel.
Alexandra Bachzetsis is a choreographer and visual artist based in Zurich [CH]. Her practice unfolds at the intersection of dance, performance, the visual arts, and theatre, generating a conflation of the spaces in which the body, as an artistic and critical apparatus, can manifest. This fundamentally interdisciplinary approach is reflected in her educational background. She studied and graduated at the Zürcher Kunstgymnasium [CH], the Dimitrischule in Verscio [CH], the Performance Education Program at the STUK art centre in Leuven [BE], and then continued to post-graduate level at Das Arts, the Advanced Research in Theatre and Dance Studies centre in Amsterdam [NL]. During these years of training, Alexandra began to work as a dancer in the contemporary dance and performance context, collaborating with Sasha Waltz & Guests [Berlin] and Les Ballets C. de la B. [Gent], among others. Collaboration, transference, and a plurality of voices and bodies have informed the artist’s work ever since and are often thematised as a method of developing new work in her practice. Much of Alexandra’s work involves choreographies of the body and, in particular, the way that popular culture provides source material for gesture, expression, identification, and fantasy as we continually create and re-create our bodies and the way we identify. Within this, she scrutinises the mutual influence between the use of gesture and movement in the “popular” or “commercial” genres on the one hand (online media, video-clip, and television as a resource) and in the “arts” on the other hand (ballet, modern and contemporary dance and performance). For her, the artificial and often precarious relationship between such genres produces an inquiry into the human body and its potential for transformation, however conceptual or actual. Ultimately, the way we all perform and stage our bodies and ourselves – through stereotypes and archetypes, through choice and cliché, through labour and spectacle – is a question that continues to shape her work. Since Alexandra started working independently in 2001, she has created over 30 pieces, often working collaboratively, which have been shown in theatres, festivals, and public space venues worldwide.