Beethoven vs Chopin
by Aikaterini Gegisian and Fatma Çiftçi
video, DV Pal, colour & b/w, stereo sound, 3 mins, 2015
In the audio-visual collage Beethoven vs Chopin (2015) Aikaterini Gegisian and Fatma Çiftçi deftly play with tropes of role reversals and various forms of doubling. The work intercuts scenes from two musical films that closely parallel one another – one Greek, Το πιο λαμπρό αστέρι (The Brightest Star) from 1967, and the other Turkish, Kara Gözlüm (The Black-eyed One) from 1970. The spliced-together scenes alternately focus on the melodramatic expressions of the films’ male romantic leads and scenes of men dancing in unison, cut in quick succession and set to the music of Marilyn Monroe crooning I Wanna Be Loved by You from the classic American comedy Some Like It Hot (1959), whose plot pivots around cross-dressing male protagonists. In the new context of Beethoven vs Chopin (2015), Monroe’s disembodied voice operates as a reversal of the typical dynamics of her role as the ultimate female sex symbol offered for the viewer’s consumption – instead, her singing here seems to suggest a perspective of emphatically female longing, while the male figures posing and dancing across the screen are cast as the objects of that desire. Yet Monroe’s song is further complicated in the way it is interwoven with other vocals from Some Like It Hot, in which the actors Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon deliver lines such as “You’re a boy,” “I’m a girl,” and “I’m a man.” Each of these phrases has a different comedic tenor in the context of the original film, yet in the video’s recontextualisation, the vocals form another counterpoint to the montage of all-male scenes and suggest a form of equivocal self-identification. The male voices even play at times almost as if they are narrating the inner monologues of the male figures pictured on screen. Within the sequencing and tempo of images and voices, it at times appears that the male figures are looking at one another longingly, subliminally subverting the boundaries of the male-female romantic pairing that features in the Greek and Turkish films, and connecting those to the multiplicity of gender positions in Some Like It Hot. The way both the audio and visual elements play off one another is both ironic and humorous, while also inviting us to consider how different and multiple forms of desire might be articulated through this appropriation and re-framing of pop culture sources.
Conversing “In Reverse” by Allison Unruh