Border control with Arkadi Zaides

At the same time as his life transitioned from Israeli to European territory, Arkadi Zaides delved into a creative process that dealt with borders.

August 8, 2019 12:02
3 minute read.
Border control with Arkadi Zaides

ARKADI ZAIDES and his Talos robot – both awe-inspiring and chilling.. (photo credit: DAJANA LOTHERT)

At the same time as his life transitioned from Israeli to European territory, Arkadi Zaides delved into a creative process that dealt with borders. Having made a name for himself as a controversial and boundary-breaking artist in Israel, Zaides’s career started to seep out of Israel, bringing him to Europe regularly. In 2015, he shifted his home base from Tel Aviv to split between Brussels and Lyons. This month, Zaides will return to Israel to present Talos, the process born out of his move, as part of the Suzanne Dellal Center’s Tel Aviv Dance.

“Since ‘Archive,’ my work has had a documentary aspect,” explains Zaides over the phone. It is early morning and Zaides is up, as he usually is in the early hours, preparing for the day ahead. “‘Talos’ was part of my transition from Israel to Europe. ‘Talos’ follows a project that took place in Poland. Israeli industries were a big part of it. It was imagining a new system that could solve all of the ethical problems of human involvement in the surveilling and securing of borders. It wanted to replace the human element with machines. In all borders, the human factor is an obstacle. The people who created these technologies wanted to make the system autonomically protect itself. They did this through movement, which presented a new paradigm of choreography at the border.”

In his lecture performance, Zaides projects videos of the Talos robot. The images, both awe-inspiring and chilling, boast a seemingly indestructible machine that can move quickly and efficiently along large stretches of border, scanning for possible threats.

“It is a human fantasy to let machines do the hard jobs,” says Zaides. “That can be a vacuum but it can also be a soldier.”
While he carefully outlines the advantages of using the Talos system to control borders, Zaides looks more like a sales representative than a dancer. He intentionally turns the audience into potential customers for the system. But make no mistake, his movements are deliberate and precise: “There is a lot of debate about the domain in which this work exists. I like that it is presented in a dance context. It is exactly the agitation that it is trying to produce. It makes you think about movement while not seeing it on stage. The choreography is very scripted, specific and defined but it is not what you’d expect from a dance performance.”

In fact, it has been several years since Zaides has choreographed something that would easily be categorized as dance. His work has been consistently and explicitly political, drawing viewers’ attention to the movement created by conflict. In “Archive,” he used footage amassed by B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories to highlight the physical implications of the occupation. In “Quiet,” Zaides presented a cast of Israelis and Palestinians responding to the ever-shifting political climate in the two areas. He is currently working on a new piece called “Necropolis,” which will premiere one year from now and maps the graves of migrants who died en route to new homes throughout Europe.
“I agitate in order to produce a political change,” he says.

Although “Talos” deals with an international phenomenon, not necessarily bound to Israeli borders, Zaides is anxious to present the work to local audiences. “I come back to Israel once in one or two years. It’s always a moment of reflection of what has happened in the time that has passed. Things are constantly changing. Of course, personally, I am excited because it is a chance to re-meet the community that I am part of. Despite the fact that I’m not there, it is part of who I am, how I grew up and what I have done.”

Arkadi Zaides will present ‘Talos’ at the Suzanne Dellal Center on August 15. For more information, visit

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