Isolated Bodies, Blurring Movements

As fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Mounir Saeed was due to begin his stay in Germany in 2020, where he planned to work with dancers from Stuttgart. However, the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic scuppered his original plans. Instead of the residency fellowship, Mounir initially completed the video piece When the Body Talks (2020), processing his experiences of social isolation as an online fellow. In January 2022, he was finally able to come to Akademie Schloss Solitude for three months, where he embarked on the production of the video installation and performance (UN)-identified Movements (2022), which addresses the blurring of entrenched routines and explores the possibility of dismantling these.

Studio visit with Mounir Saeed by Saskia Ackermann and Jana Hochdorfer — Mai 30, 2022

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Isolated Bodies, Blurring Movements

Still from Mounir Saeed: »When the Body Talks«, 2020

A dancer stands on a roof in Cairo and slowly sets her body in motion, with the noise of the street and the hum of a fan in the background. Her voice, offscreen, speaks of talking to each other and listening. She changes her position on the roof and starts dancing between satellite dishes and cables, the physical carriers of virtual communication, whose importance skyrocketed when people isolated themselves in their own living spaces with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The noise of the city subsides and a clock starts to tick. A man shifts about on armchairs and sofas. He talks of waiting and being bored with sitting around before entering the room. With the movements of his body, he divides the undefined mass of time into units, giving them meaning, and surveys the emptiness of space with the dynamics of dance.

In Mounir Saeed’s video piece When the Body Talks, six dancers talk about their experiences of social distancing during the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The dancers express the circling of thoughts through their bodies, translating the struggle with doing nothing, uncertainty and isolation into movements. The search for meaning, support and orientation assumes a physical presence in dance. The world around them moves quietly and silently along without appearing to have any meaning for their own actions. When the Body Talks addresses the simultaneity of stillness and movement, the opposition of exterior and interior, the connections between body and thought and the sharing of a common experience that is nonetheless different for each individual.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Isolated Bodies, Blurring Movements

Still from Mounir Saeed: »When the Body Talks«, 2020

The dancers tell of their experiences of isolation in their own dance language, focusing on six different aspects: »Communication«, »Waiting«, »Vision«, »Conflict«, »Stability« and »Anger«. Mounir met with the dancers individually and spoke to them about the omnipresent emptiness and uncertainty of the future, which also affects artists in particular. From this, he developed the fundamentals, key words and a vocabulary for the dancers’ improvisations. Mounir took each dancer to a selected location and recorded the performances. In the video, the successive scenes are stand-alone pieces, yet each continues the narratives of the others:

»I divided the experience of this time into six specific cases. I was working with each of the dancers alone, they didn’t meet each other until the video screening. The video shows six particular cases, each dancer has their own bubble – they didn’t need to be in a group for the purposes of my installation. In When the Body Talks, I created the thin connecting line between the six dancers: the isolation. They all have their own separate individual themes, but at bottom they are all linked.«

The simultaneity of isolation and togetherness is thus also found on a formal and dramatic level. Much more than a mere stopgap, the medium of video itself here conveys the experience of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.


While, in When the Body Talks, Mounir works with the specifics of the individual movements, his current work (UN)-identified Movements pursues the blurring of meaning and particularity of movement sequences in people’s everyday lives. He is interested in the routines that dictate our paths:

»With (UN)-identified Movements, I am considering the routines that we are forced to follow, whether in our work, in our lives or when walking in the street. Imagine that you are sitting on a train. When you leave, you already know where you’re going. The routes that you walk – from your house to work, from your work back home – are already there.«

In a way, these movements are there before we are, they have no character of their own, they are – as Mounir would say – unidentified. In the video installation, they appear distorted, blurred and unrecognizable. The dancers are impossible to recognize on the grounds of their physicality, body language or their faces.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Isolated Bodies, Blurring Movements

Mounir Saeed, »(UN)-identified Movements«, Performance at Akademie Schloss Solitude, 2022. Photo: Jana Hochdorfer

But what happens when we deconstruct this uncertainty, no longer following predefined paths, and take a new direction? How can we transform the existing definitions?

»What if I take a different route to my house? Maybe I will find a different view? What if I dismantle this invisibility and create a new observation of the outside world? We walk the same routes so many times. If we never change them, we will never know where else they can lead us.«

At the presentation of (UN)-identified Movements at Akademie Schloss Solitude in March 2022, Mounir performed live as a dancing silhouette in front of the video installation screen. He uses his own movements to deconstruct the uncertainty, setting against this his own personality, his own body, his own individuality.

Video and live performance are carried by powerful ambient music which rises to a crescendo. It is created through the successive layering of sound patterns assigned to the individual dancers. But here, too, the individual boundaries blur and become a musical mass indeterminate and impelling by turns. The all-round skills of choreography/direction, performance, video and sound production are new to Mounir, who trained as a contemporary dancer and first embarked on the combination of cinematic-dance work in 2020. Yet it is precisely in the linking of the physical and dance-like with the cinematic and experimental that Mounir sees a special attraction, which he intends to continue to pursue in his future work.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Isolated Bodies, Blurring Movements

Mounir Saeed, »(UN)-identified Movements«, Performance at Akademie Schloss Solitude, 2022. Photo: Jana Hochdorfer


Mit dem Laden des Videos akzeptieren Sie die Datenschutzerklärung von YouTube.
Mehr erfahren

Video laden

Beteiligte Person(en)

Find more contributions in the archive