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 2023, when the latest updated version was released, the list included information on 52,760 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.

Credits & Collaborators

Concept & direction Arkadi Zaides Dramaturgy, text and voice Igor Dobricic Research and choreography assistant Emma Gioia Sculpture Moran Sanderovich 3D modeling Mark Florquin Avatar animation Jean Hubert Animation assistant Thibaut Rostagnat Sound design Aslı Kobaner Light Jan Mergaert Technical director Etienne Exbrayat Grave location search Aktina Stathaki, Amalie Lynge Lyngesen, Amber Maes, Amirsalar Kavoosi, Andrea Costa, Ans Van Gasse, Arkadi Zaides, Benjamin Pohlig, Bianca Frasso, Carolina-Maria Van Thillo, Prof. dr. Christel Stalpaert, Doreen Kutzke, Dorsa Kavoosi, Eleonora Soriente, Elisa Franceschini, Elvura Quesada, Emma Gioia, Eva Maes, Filippo Furri, Flavia Dalila D'Amico, Frédéric Pouillaude, Friederike Kötter, Gabriel Smeets, Giorgia Mirto, Gosia Juszczak, Igor Dobricic, Ilka Van Bijlen, Jordy Minne, Joris Van Imschoot, Julia Asperska, Juliana Andrea Tapiero Polanía, Juliane Beck, Katia Gandolfi, Katja Seitajoki, Lilas Forissier, Lina Gilani Tsitouri, Lovis Heuss, Luca Lotano, Lucille Haddad, Maite Zabalza, Maria Sierra Carretero, Mercedes Roldan, Myriam Van Imschoot, Myrto Katsiki, Nevena Delić, Osnat Kelner, Özge Atmış, Pepa Torres Perez, Sarah Leo, Selby Jenkins, Simge Gücük, Solveig Gade, Sunniva Vikør Egenes, Tamara Vajdíková, Tilemachos Tsolis, Valeria Povolo, Victoria Columba, 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)

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Articles & Reviews

Tentacular Thinking in Storied Places

by Christel Stalpaert, Arkadi Zaides, Michel Lussault, Philippe Rekacewicz, Igor Dobricic, Atelier Cartographique in GPS (Global Performance Studies), 01/22

This text is an in-between report of the ongoing collaborative practices of the NecropolisLAB in relation to the research-based perfromance project Necropolis. Every performance of Noceropolis is a preliminary culmination point in the many-faceted and long-term process, placing the body and choreography (in its most expansive sense) as key attention points. The Necropolis erformance calls upon the local (European) audience to individually and collectively acknowledge the death of people wh are dying on the Europien shore by mapping their place of death, performing a grave location search and a walk towards a grave of a migrant.

Staring Straight into the Migrant Tragedy: Arkadi Zaides’ Shock Performance

by Emmanuelle Bouchez, Telerama, 06/21

Sur scène, assis à sa table, installé de dos avec Emma Gioia, co-interprète, il manipule son écran d’ordinateur projeté en grand. Une carte de France et d’Europe vue du ciel, truffée de balises rouges. À chaque zoom sur un point, un nom apparaît. Avec un rapide CV qui fait froid dans le dos. Âge, origine, circonstances de la mort. Noyé « dans la mer du milieu » ou accidenté de la route pour avoir voulu échapper à la police des frontières. Plus de 44 500 personnes ont été dénombrées par l’association humanitaire United for Intercultural Action, sur laquelle le performeur a appuyé son travail.

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.