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.

Credits & Collaborators

Concept & direction Arkadi Zaides Dramaturgy, text and voice Igor Dobricic Research and choreography assistant Emma Gioia Sculpture Moran Senderovich 3D modeling Mark Florquin Avatar animation Jean Hubert Animation assistant Thibaut Rostagnat Sound design Aslı Kobaner Grave location search Aktina Stathaki, Amalie Lynge Lyngesen, Amber Maes, Amirsalar Kavoosi, Ans Van Gasse, Arkadi Zaides, Benjamin Pohlig, Bianca Frasso, Carolina-Maria Van Thillo, Christel Stalpaert, Doreen Kutzke, Dorsa Kavoosi, Elisa Franceschini, Elvura Quesada, Emma Gioia, Frédéric Pouillaude, Gabriel Smeets, Giorgia Mirto, Gosia Juszczak, Igor Dobricic, Ilka Van Bijlen, Jordy Minne, Joris Van Imschoot, Julia Asperska, Juliane Beck, Katia Gandolfi, Katja Seitajoki, Luca Lotano, Lucille Haddad, Maite Zabalza, Maria Sierra Carretero, Mercedes Roldan, Meret* Heuss, Myriam Van Imschoot, Myrto Katsiki, Özge Atmış, Pepa Torres Perez, Sarah Leo, Simge Gücük, Solveig Gade, Sunniva Vikør Egenes, Yannick Bosc, Yari Stilo Administration & production Simge Gücük / Institut des Croisements Co-produced by Theatre de la Ville (FR), Montpellier Danse 40 Bis (FR), Charleroi Danse (BE), CCN2 Centre chorégraphique national de Grenoble (FR), les ballets C de la B(BE), Tanz im August / HAU Hebbel am Ufer (DE), La Filature – Scène nationale de Mulhouse (FR) Residency support STUK (BE), CCN – Ballet de Lorraine (FR), Workspacebrussels (BE), PACT Zollverein (DE), WP Zimmer (BE), Cie Thor (BE) Support for experimentation RAMDAM, un centre d'art (FR) International distribution Koen Vanhove & Anna Skonecka / Key Performance

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Articles & Reviews

Against a choreography of privilege

by Paola Granato, Dinamopress, 12/20

«Abbiamo iniziato il lavoro su questo progetto – mi racconta Arkadi Zaides – quando abbiamo scoperto la lista di United, un network di organizzazioni che dal 1993 ha iniziato a raccogliere dati su persone che perdono la vita nel loro viaggio verso l’Europa. Nel 2013 questa lista contava 3000 morti, l’ultimo aggiornamento della ne conta 40.000 e sappiamo che si tratta di un numero parziale, ci sono casi non riportati». Partire dai dati, interfacciandosi con varie discipline per un’investigazione forense realizzata a partire da giornali, fonti orali, database ufficiali, archivi urbani, autorità cimiteriali e ospedali utilizzati come fonte per ricostruire la storia dei defunti, molti dei quali senza nome. Un progetto artistico che, per mezzo di una rigorosa pratica di ricerca, ha come obiettivo, anche, quello, di implementare la lista elaborata da United. «Fino a ora abbiamo condotto l’indagine in Belgio, Francia, Italia, Spagna, Svezia, Svizzera – racconta Zaides. «In ogni luogo è diverso: in alcuni paesi si tratta solo di pochi casi, in altri, come in Italia, ce ne sono moltissimi. In ogni paese viene condotta una ricerca specifica sul territorio e ogni nuovo ritrovamento permette di implementare il nostro database».

Necropolis – Walking through a List of Deaths

by Arkadi Zaides, for (W)archives: Archival imaginaries, war, and contemporary art, edited by Daniela Agostinho, Solveig Gade, Nanna Bonde Thylstrup, and Kristin Veel, Berlin/New York: Sternberg Press, 12/20

In Europe after World War II, there were massive efforts to search for missing soldiers and citizens, many of which remained unresolved for decades. Only in the early 1990s, after Gorbachev's perestroika, were the Russian archives opened, finally allowing access to information about millions of German prisoners of war who had been previously untraceable. Since 2004, the German Red Cross has digitized two million prisoner files belonging to missing German soldiers and civilians from Russian military archives to create a database with personal information and details about their fates. Germany has not been the only country to conduct such efforts.

Bodies as Evidence

by Sandra Noeth, for the Tanz Im August Magazine, 08/20

Movement is the primary starting point of the research, movements of people who are systematically and brutally stopped by border policies. This is about thousands of bodies that are absent, silenced, drowned. It’s about a collective body, haunting us. Another aspect lies in the material itself, in a gesture performed by all of us involved in the project “NECROPOLIS”, and I’d like to call this a choreographic gesture. Wherever we are, we scroll through the list put out by UNITED for Intercultural Action – a network of hundreds of anti-racist organisations in Europe, and one of our central sources of data – and there or nearby, like now in Berlin, we try to find the burial places of migrants and undocumented asylum-seekers who couldn't reach Europe alive.

30 September—2 October 2021