Perfect (video still)

Perfect (video still)

Perfect (video still)

PERFECT: ALEXANDRA BACHZETSIS’ PERFIDIOUS PERFECTIONISM

There are many types of porn that do not directly meet the ‘official’ demands of pornography as a distinct cinematic genre centered around the depiction of genital sexual activity, many of them only ‘accidentally’ pornographic (it seems) – food porn is one type that comes to mind: the luscious close-up portrayal of exquisite food stuffs being prepared, processed and eaten (by Nigella Lawson, for instance). I am also thinking here of the workout video, and of fitness culture more generally – a glimpse of sweating, gyrating bodies at work on treadmills, rowers and benches in spaces invariably equipped with lots of mirrors and glass is certainly not without sexual (that is, exhibitionist/voyeurist) overtones. This, of course, is something well understood by Alexandra Bachzetsis, whose work as a whole betrays an interest in this kind of ‘accidental’ pornography – imaginings of femininity that often seem to replicate the male gaze so as to confront that gaze with its cultural conditions, while simultaneously also exposing, manipulating and merely staging the crude fact of desire – ‘erotics’ sometimes seems to priggish a word to describe the crudeness of this desire – that escapes all considerations of cultural determination. “Perfect” is a performance set in what looks like a photo studio: a white sheet of thick paper rolls down the wall to form an impromptu background for the reification of the body in view, and bright white lights (glaring sources of heat all) shine onto this provisory stage – in other words, we are already in a world designed for the thrill of looking, for scopophilia. Bachzetsis, dressed in high heels (!), blue jeans and a white t-shirt – a Guess add brought to life, in short, or a disconcerting infiltration of masculine sartorial tropes in a dramatic display of femininity? – mechanically works herself in a trance of standardized fitness routines, some obviously more tickling to our comic sensibilities than to the pleasure centres in our brains. Well-known ‘scenes’ from Jane Fonda workout videos are dismembered and transformed into abstract, gestural vignettes, the absurdity of which is heightened by the fact that all this takes place within the ritualized confines of an undulating white square, and what began as an alluring exercise in seduction gradually degenerates into something of a battle with the (self-imposed) elements of choreography: as the heat generated by the lights continues to rise, Bachzetsis’ ludic fitness queen turns into a disheveled victim of repetition.