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Exhibition at Neuer Berliner Kunstverein questions of the performativity of gender
Alexandra Bachzetsis, Instruction Pieces installation view.

BERLIN.- Alexandra Bachzetsis presents her first solo exhibition in a Berlin institution at Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.): A thematic overview of more recent and older works that revolve around the topic area of instruction. Since 2001, the artist has been creating performance works, some of which have been realized in collaboration with various partners. More and more, she transfers these performative works into videos, publications, and sculptures. The exhibition Instruction Pieces brings together five works by the artist that deal with the interfaces between language, body, movement, and space.

The body of work Escape Act (2018) forms the core of the exhibition at the n.b.k. Showroom. In an eponymous performance, Bachzetsis, together with six performers aged between 21 and 80, picked up on stereotypical ideals of body and behavior spread by mass media in pop culture and treated them by means of persiflage. As a result, three works were created that take a closer look at individual aspects of the performance and develop them further —at the same time they are to be regarded as independent works. On show will be the video A Manual For Desire (2018), the artist’s publication An Ideal For Living (2018), and the sculpture Catapult (2018). The characters in A Manual for Desire wear high heels, wigs and padded breast and rear supports, as well as orthopedic back belts as corsets, and restrict their freedom of movement to the same extent that they adapt their bodies to standardized ideas of sexual attractiveness. They act with props used in the field of gymnastics and perform movements that range between sporting exercises and pornographically coded poses. The key reference for this series of works are the reflections of the Spanish philosopher and queer theorist Paul B. Preciado. His previously unpublished poem Love Is a Drone provides the basis of the sprechgesang, which gives a rhythmical structure to A Manual For Desire and is enclosed as a foldout in the artists’ publication An Ideal For Living. Preciado assumes a radically social construction of femininity and masculinity and regards the human body as an experimental field for diversely defined, non-binary forms of sexuality. Accordingly, in her more recent work Bachzetsis is increasingly concerned with inventing gestures that help alternative genders to empower themselves and using images of a world oriented towards rapid consumption as the starting point for a critical appropriation.

In This Side Up (2007), an early video work by Bachzetsis created in collaboration with Julia Born, the artist questions fixed coordinates such as up, down, left and right. She rearranges them and thus creates confusion, which she intensifies with the demand This Side Up—a seemingly unmistakable instruction, as it is common on packaging. In her performance, directional information is rendered relative and the habitual perception of spatiality is problematized. This is continued in a poster designed by Born, which is handed out to exhibition visitors as an unlimited edition.

The three publications on the performances Secret Instructions (2005–2010), also developed in collaboration with Julia Born, put stage directions at the center of the artist’s preoccupation with the seemingly circumstantial. Bachzetsis removed the dialogue text from canonical plays by Anton Chekhov, Bertolt Brecht, Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett, Edward Albee and Sarah Kane from the years 1898–1995, so that only the stage directions remained. She used these to bring together six performers and 61 props, taken from the source texts, in a new play. Its three performances deal with the question of the variability of instructions in the mode of directed improvisation: The performers are free to choose which person, prop or stage element they want to fill into the gaps of the previously imposed instructions. Bachzetsis exposes the skeleton that usually frames the scenery, the atmosphere and actions of the actors and opens it up to new possibilities of interpretation.

By inviting Alexandra Bachzetsis, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein presents an artist who, in an innovative way, addresses questions of the performativity of gender, the politicization of the body and of desire, and ways of capturing the ephemeral medium of performance by means of videos, notations, and sculptural props.

Alexandra Bachzetsis (b. 1974 in Zurich, lives and works there) studied theater and choreography at the Accademia Teatro Dimitri in Verscio, Italy (1997) and the DAS Graduate School of the Academy of Theatre and Dance in Amsterdam (2006). Since 2018, she has been teaching at the Haute école d’art et de design in Geneva. Her work has received numerous awards, including the Art Prize of the City of Zurich (2018), the Swiss Art Award (2016; 2011) and the Swiss Performance Award (2012). Her performances were presented at, among others: Pioneer Works, Brooklyn (2019); Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin (2019); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2019); Pact Zollverein, Essen (2018); High Line Art, New York (2018). Solo exhibitions (selection): Centre culturel suisse, Paris (2018); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2017); Bonner Kunstverein (2014); Kunsthaus Glarus (2010); Kunsthalle Basel (2008). Group exhibitions (selection): Marta Herford (2019; 2005); Museum Tinguely, Basel (2017); documenta 14, Athens and Kassel (2017); Kunstverein Hannover (2016); dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel (2012); S.M.A.K., Ghent (2012; 2004); Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius (2009); Berlin Biennale (2008); De Appel, Amsterdam (2006; 2005).

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