Doctoral research on the interplay between documents and embodied practices
“Towards Documentary Choreography - Intermedial Approaches in Working with Extra-Aesthetic Materials” is the title of Arkadi Zaides’ PhD research project. Zaides is working within the CORPoREAL research group at the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp as well as at the University of Antwerp. The research will be conducted between 2021-2025 and will unfold through a series of workshops, lectures, publications, master classes, and performances focusing on the conceptualization of and the experimentation with the term ‘documentary choreography'.
‘Documentary choreography’ integrates documents (interviews, testimonies, video materials, existing archival information, and others) in the choreographic work. It strives to weave these types of factual information with embodied practices in order to question social and political realities within which this type of work is produced. Moreover, it aims at transgressing the often-safe space of the artistic field and intervening through the process of creation and exposure of the artistic work in the actual political realm. By conceptualizing the term ‘documentary choreography’ Arkadi Zaides wishes to reflect on his own body of work in the last decade, as well as connect with peers and scholars who work along the same lines of practice and thought.
A performance outlining an invisible city of the dead mapped from the graves of the migrants who could not reach their final destinations in Europe.
For over a quarter of a century, "UNITED for Intercultural Action", a network of hundreds of anti-racist organizations from all around Europe, has been compiling a list registering 40,555 deaths of refugees and migrants who have attempted to reach Europe since 1993. Such disasters are usually handled with a standardized almost automatic institutional response: pathologists and forensic experts are deployed to collect medical and biological data from bodies and from living relatives in order to enable identification. However, this procedure has not been followed for most of the victims of the current migration crisis at the gates of Europe. At the bottom of the sea, on the shores, and inland, a mass of decomposed bodies and body parts tells the story of a collective whose ghost hovers over European territory. For their research, Arkadi Zaides and his team delve into the practice of forensics to conceive a new virtual database documenting the remains of those whose death is to this day mostly unacknowledged. This growing archive, this map, this site named NECROPOLIS is stretching in all directions across space and time, interrelating the mythologies, histories, geographies, movements, and anatomies of those who have been granted entrance to the city of the dead.
[in progress] A perfromance that puts the Chernobyl catastrophe into the limelight by following the movement of the radioactive cloud, its fallout, and the danger it still represents for humans.
On April 26 1986, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plants Reactor No. 4 exploded after tests were improperly carried out and the operators lost control. The burning graphite cloud initially travelled in a northwest direction toward Sweden, Finland, and Eastern Europe, exposing the public to levels up to one hundred times the normal background radiation. In Arkadi Zaides’ hometown Gomel, a city in Belarus located 140km away from Chernobyl, life continues despite the radioactive threat. The accident would only be announced tersely two days later on Soviet TV and it was not until Sweden found out about the presence of a radioactive cloud drifting across Europe that the world came to grasp the full extent of the Chernobyl explosion.
In this performance, Zaides wishes to put the Chernobyl catastrophe into the limelight. The concept of the cloud is evoked in it through several material and conceptual references. It is evoked through the investigation and observation of the actual movement performed by the cloud of radioactive waste following the Chernobyl catastrophe. It is also approached as a web of different pieces of information and misinformations, a cloud of data that leads collective consciousness towards a state of paranoia and panic, that evokes doomsday narratives and touches upon the most primary fears of humanity's extinction. Finally, it is envisioned as a "hyperobject", which Timothy Morton defines as an element that is "massively distributed in time and space relative to humans” leading humanity to a total ecological collapse.
A performance that examines the relation between movement, innovative technologies and the future of borders.
What kind of choreography arises in the proximity of borders? Which strategies of restriction define movement? This work sets out to explore a dynamic system of action and reaction, limitation and transgression, stasis and mobility. The piece is a response to TALOS, an EU-funded research project in the field of security enforcement for which an advanced system aimed at protecting European land borders was designed. TALOS was a collaborative project involving fourteen institutions from ten countries that was officially conducted between the years 2008-2013. It resulted in the conception of a surveillance system that could be rapidly deployed to any location. This system was to be based on mobile, semi-autonomous robots that patrol border areas and gain physical and performative presence. The TALOS project was never launched and remained an experiment, a test, and a demonstration of technological capabilities. Since 2016, Arkadi Zaides has gathered a team of choreographers, dramaturges, and video artists to develop a performance that questions the TALOS project.
A video installation addressing the digitization of border control, first presented as part of INFINI a project by Decoratelier Jozef Wouters.
In 2010 Arkadi Zaides initiated a collaboration with photographer Yuval Tebol and multidisciplinary artist Daniel Landau to create the scenography for the stage performance ‘Land-Research’. On a large screen set at the back of the stage, images shot by Tebol with a panoramic camera in various locations in Israel/Palestine were altered by Landau’s graphic interventions. These minimalist black and white landscapes served as buffers between the solos of five performers enacted on stage. In 2016 the same methodology was repeated following an invitation by scenographer Jozef Wouters and his Decoratelier for the creation of the INFINI project. This time, a landscape, an altered image captured at the Turkish Greek border, stood on the bare stage, it was created along with 15 other scenographies by 15 different artists that performed on the stage of the KVS theatre in Brussels. INFINI#1 GAZA ENVELOPE In ‘INFINI#1 GAZA ENVELOPE’ an image shot by Yuval Tebol in 2008 captures a segment of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. It is a shot of a stockpile of security barriers used by the Israeli security forces to barricade civilian targets. The Israeli disengagement from the occupied Gaza Strip took place in 2005. In 2007, after Hamas took control of the strip, an ongoing land, air, and sea blockade was imposed on the citizens of Gaza both by Israel and Egypt. Since then Israel has de facto controlled all aspects of the life in Gaza and operations are conducted repeatedly by the Israeli army, killing thousands of Palestinians. Hamas, in return, periodically attempts to launch missiles towards Israeli settlements. The sky in Tebol's panoramic image is gradually cut out by Landau’s digital intervention leaving the barriers, blocks of bare concrete, alone in the panoramic frame. The INFINI#1 GAZA ENVELOPE video installation therefore uses the edited picture as a visual metonymy for the lethal dynamics shaping the experience of the border. This process provides a visual reflective meditation on the deadly border separating the two peoples. INFINI #1 LESVOS In ‘INFINI #1 LESVOS’ Tebol, Landau and Zaides documented a definite section of the European border, the coastline of the Mantamados region of Lesbos, which is the Greek island’s closest point to Turkey. In 2016, each day, approximately 1,500 migrants entered Europe through this location. The video work provides a contemplative gaze on one of the three main gateways to fortress Europe. The image of the coastline (photographed by Tebol) is fundamentally transformed (by Landau) with the use of digital effects: fragments are cut out, isolated, and framed. The distant Turkish coastline as well as the rubber dinghies previously used to carry migrants and now left on the Greek shore are delineated with a yellow dotted line and blacked out. The sea and the air have also been edited extensively. This process takes place silently, detachedly: as if the tragedies unfolding on the coast were nothing more than a problem that can be solved with the aid of digital technology.
Recipient of the Emile Zola Prize for Performing Arts. Awarded to Zaides for demonstrating engagement in human-rights issues.
B’Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Since 2007, the organization has been operating its Camera Project, which distributes video cameras to Palestinians in high conflict areas in the West Bank. The project aims to provide an ongoing documentation of human rights violations, and to expose the reality of life under occupation to both the Israeli and the international public.
Throughout the work process, Zaides reviewed and selected footage that was filmed by volunteers of B’Tselem’s Camera Project. On stage, he examines the bodies of Israelis as they were captured on camera, and focuses on the physical reactions to which they resort in various confrontational situations. The Palestinians remain behind the camera, nevertheless, their movement, voice, and point of view are highly present, determining the viewer’s perspective.
Although the footage reveals a local reality, Archive raises broader, more universal questions: what is the potential of violence embedded in each individual body, and what price does the collective pay for governing the other. Zaides extracts and appropriates gestures and voices of fellow Israelis. He identify with the footage and engages in it, gradually embodying it. The mimetic choreographic practice raises questions of participation and responsibility as Zaides’ body transforms into a living archive.
A two-channel video installation, based on the video archives of B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in The Occupied Territories.
In 2013, Zaides was granted access to the video archives of B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in The Occupied Territories. The archives contain thousands of hours of footage, documented by Palestinian volunteers for B'Tselem’s Camera Project. Zaides’ research resulted in two works: Capture Practice (video installation), and Archive (stage performance).
Capture Practice is a two-channel video loop, commissioned by the Petach Tikva Museum of Art in 2014. The work examines the bodies of Israelis as they were captured on camera, and focuses on the physical reactions to which they resort in various confrontational situations in the West Bank. The Palestinians remain behind the camera, nevertheless, their movement, voice, and point of view are highly present, determining the viewer’s perspective.
Capture Practice features Zaides as he dances in a studio, on one channel, and footage from the B'Tselem archives, on the other. With his gaze continuously facing the other screen, Zaides mimics the movements of the documented subjects. He uses his own body to tie together the occurrences on both screens. By creating a perpetuate choreographic practice, he examines the somatic influence of the occupation over the bodies of those administering it. As an Israeli choreographer whose work engages in the occupation, Capture Practice raises questions regarding Zaides’ own involvement in the act.
The work is accompanied by a live performance of Dig Deep, a musical score for string quartet by Julia Wolfe.
In 2013, Zaides was invited to take part in the Aire De Jeu project at Les Subsistances, a research center for performing arts in Lyon. The project invited choreographers from across the world to create a work using live music by contemporary composers. For the project, Zaides chose Dig Deep, a composition for string quartet by American composer Julia Wolfe.
Wolfe is a founding member of renowned New York collective Bang On A Can. Her music is distinguished by intense physicality and relentless power. It pushes performers to extremes ands demand close attention from the audience. Her 1995 composition Dig Deep generates an intense sonic movement inwards. In A Response to Dig Deep, Zaides focuses on a state of ongoing oscillation, offering the audience a kinesthetic, non-narrative practice that examines the tension between restlessness and stability.
A research-based project that focuses on structural violence and its influence on the body.
The term ‘structural violence’ refers to implied systemic and latent forms of exclusion or oppression that emerge on social and political localities. The notion of inscription stems from choreographic concepts and practices of writing; inscribing in and into material and immaterial spaces. This notion draws viewers’ attention to the consequences of our individual and collective actions. It underlines the presence of structural violence - its narration and history.
Violence of Inscriptions questions the potency of artistic, discursive, and action-based practices to critically reflect on this subject. The project examines bodies that are subjected to structural violence, and focuses on the performative and physical aspects that surface as a result. It examines the role of the body in producing, maintaining, legitimizing, representing, and aestheticizing structural violence.
Violence of Inscriptions was a collaborative project, facilitated by HAU – Hebbel am Ufer in Berlin between 2016 and 2018. It is a result of an ongoing dialogue between Arkadi Zaides and dramaturge, curator and scholar Sandra Noeth. Each chapter of the project aimed to break down the complexity of the topic by examining the ideological, personal, political and ethical dynamics that are at stake. It brought together artists, thinkers, and human-rights activists for an intensive work session. The diverse perspectives of each participant provide the initial material for the discussion. The sessions are followed by a public program at HAU – Hebbel am Ufer, which included lectures, roundtables, screenings, and installations.
The four different chapters of the project included: VOI (Violence of Inscriptions) #1 – On Experience & Representation, VOI #2 – On Resilience, VOI #3 – On Collectivity, and Its Boundaries, VOI #4 – On the Integrity of the Body
Five solo acts that explore the relation between the geopolitical landscape and the physical body.
The work ties together the relations between the geopolitical landscape and the physical body. On stage, five performers from diverse backgrounds take turns in solo acts. Through a series of physical tasks, each dancer undergoes an individual processes of transformation. Each solo is followed by a projection of images that depict local scenery. Shot by Israeli photographer Yuval Tebol, they capture the Israeli/Palestinian landscape. The images reveal the presence of concrete bearers within the landscapes, and allude to similar yet unpalpable bearers between each performer's personal narrative. Land-Research began with interviews of the performers, conducted by cultural researcher Anat Cederbaum. The interviews included a set of questions that examined the congruence and conflicts between each performer’s personal and national narratives. The same questions were later brought into the studio and served as the starting point from which each solo was created. Land-Research was premiered at Fabrik Potsdam in the frame of Tanztage Festival, 2012.
A curatorial project that aims to broaden the discussion between body, politics, and society.
Moves Without Borders is a collaborative curatorial project between Zaides, Goethe-Institute Israel, and additional partners. The project took place between 2012-2015, during this time contemporary avant-garde choreographers were invited present their work and lead workshops in Tel Aviv, Jaffa and Bat Yam. The project provided local audience and performance practitioners a chance to get acquainted with different choreographic practices. List of participating artists included: Marten Spangberg (SE), Meg Stuart (DE/BE), Philipp Gehmacher (AT), deufert&plischke (DE), Myriam Van Imschoot (BE), Alain Franco (BE), Rodrigo Sobarzo (CL/NL), Jared Gradinger & Angela Schubot (DE), Raimund Hoghe (DE).
Moves Without Borders aimed to critically reflect on the political climate in Israel, a reality of borders and walls. Looking back at the participating artists, one can notice a clear Eurocentric orientation. Contrary to its original objective to promote a borderless cultural exchange, it seems that the project had reinforced the existing situation. The dialogue took place between artists from hegemonic countries, while the voices of artists from marginal countries remained unheard. Nevertheless, the tools that were acquired during the program will hopefully resonate within the Israeli dance community, and will pave the way to an engaged and radical dance scene.
A work for four performers with scenography created by the graffiti artist KLONE.
Quiet is a response to the violence and to the increasing sense of mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians who live within the shifting borders of Israel. In a political climate that allows little space for reflection, Zaides felt the urgency to promote honest communication. Quiet reacts to the state of shock in which both sectors of society often find themselves. The work functions as a safe zone; a place where one can let his demons out; where irrational responses are legitimized; where a broader perspective is sought and trust is gradually built.
Quiet features four performers that reveal a complex emotional landscape: aggression, compassion, confusion, and yearning that form an intensive dynamics. The creative process drew heavily on the diversity of the participants: Jewish and Arab actors and dancers from various backgrounds. In the heart of the work lies a will to embrace the complexities and find a quiet place.
Recipient of the Kurt Jooss Prize. Awarded by the city of Essen and the Anna Markard and Hermann Markard Foundation in 2010.
Isabel Cruellas creates fragile sculptures of metal plants. Each detail is the result of an intensive work process, fraught with physical labor. Her sculptures testify to the transformation of matter: from hard metal to a surprisingly delicate outcome. Iris Erez is a dancer and choreographer. Her work is characterized by a laborious exploration of emotional inner worlds, brought forth into physical expression.
Solo Colores stemmed from the desire to initiate a dialogue between the two female artists and to converge the two disciplines into one platform. The work examines the inner strength and emotional resources that an artist needs in order to create. It underlines the intensity that takes place prior to a work’s completion as well as an artist's need to publicly expose her work.
The performance is set on a white, colorless stage that introduces Cruellas’ metal plants. A human figure (Erez) tries to relive past experiences, as if seeking to share her inner world with the audience.
Solo Colores was premiered at Tavi Dresdner Gallery, Tel Aviv, 2008.
Zaides’ first independent, internationally acclaimed work. A collaboration with video artist Shira Miasnik.
“This disturbed fog of shadows, raging within, how can I dissolve it?” Raymond Queneau
Zaides dances on stage, his shadow falls on a white screen at the back of the stage. As he moves, the shadow follows his steps, twitching or changing its form until no longer resembling a human figure. The mimetic practice reveals an inner struggle, an intensive dynamics that leaves Zaides lying on the ground in a state of exhaustion. A video projection portrays a dream-like scene: The shadow multiplies to creates hybrid shapes, while Zaides’ body hovers in mid air or bounces off the ground as if unconstrained by gravity.
How do operational systems manipulate people into obedience?
The work examines the ways in which brainwashing techniques are employed in order to oppress resistance among people; how social or physical systems manipulate us into blind obedience. Meeting Brian Wash was commissioned by the Performance Art Arena in Jerusalem, lead by the artistic direction of Doron Tavori. On stage, five performers alternatively assume the roles of a manipulating group and a manipulated individual. The performers subject each other to various experiments according to each person’s own pressure point. A totalitarian-like figure (played by Tavori) is projected on screen and monitors their every move.
A duet with choreographer and performer Sharon Zuckerman. Accompanied by singer Riff Cohen.
Adamdam examines the creation and destruction of forms and ideas. The work relates to the human body as matter that can be shaped, controlled, used or misused. It is inspired by the tail of the Golem, a Jewish myth that tells the story of an anthropoid made of clay. The term ‘Golem’ first appeared in the bible and referred to an embryonic substance, a form not yet shaped. Zaides’ interpretation presents the Golem as a brainless entity that serves a repressive human master.
On stage, two dancers move slowly. They form a hybrid entity that appears to be activated for the first time. They test the Golem’s physical abilities using bulky gestures, then separate back into an individual state. Alternatively, they assume the roles of the master and his clay figure, trying to shape each other’s movements.