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, which is conducted as a practice-based joint PhD between the University of Antwerp, The Royal Conservatoire Antwerp, the University of Ghent and KASK/School of Arts (HoGent). The project will run from 2021 to 2025 and will consist of a series of workshops, lectures, publications, master classes, and performances that explore the concept and practice of ‘documentary choreography’.

This term refers to a type of choreographic work that incorporates documents (such as interviews, testimonies, video materials, archival information, etc.) as sources of factual information that can be used to question and intervene in social and political realities. By integrating these documents with embodied practices, documentary choreography aims to transcend the boundaries of the artistic field and engage with the actual political realm. Through this project, Arkadi Zaides seeks to reflect on his own artistic work in the last decade, as well as to connect with other practitioners and scholars who share similar interests and approaches.


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.

Since 1993, UNITED for Intercultural Action, a network of hundreds of anti-racist organizations from all over Europe, has been compiling a list of refugees and migrants who lost their lives on their way to the continent. As of June 2024, when the latest updated version was released, the list included information on 60,620 reported deaths. The total toll is certainly much higher, as many people are neither found nor registered. When scrolling through the many pages of the list one cannot ignore the fact that only a very small number of the deceased are mentioned by name, leaving the vast majority without identifying details.

The European jurisdiction establishes a clear distinction between criminal, natural, and accidental deaths, which determines the way the bodies are subsequently handled. As the many thousands of deaths that take place at the gates of Europe challenge this taxonomy, the forensic procedures consisting in collecting medical and biological data from the corpses are not carried out in most of the cases. This absence of information prevents any possibility of future identification of the victims. At the bottom of the sea, on the shores, and inland, a mass of decomposed bodies 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 depository documenting the remains of the many whose deaths remain to this day mostly unacknowledged. This growing archive, this map, this invisible landscape is stretching in all directions across space and time, interrelating the mythologies, histories, geographies and anatomies of those who have been granted entrance to NECROPOLIS. Freedom of movement needs to be returned to the bodies who are admitted to Europe as corpses. And although in the City of the Dead there is no-body left to dance, it is exactly that no-body, that body of the bodies - the body of NECROPOLIS - which Zaides aims to animate back to life.


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.


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


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. 


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.