About Is This Mankind

About Is This Mankind?

With the title – Is this mankind? – Peter de Cupere refers to the book Primo Levi wrote in 1947 about his time in the Auschwitz concentration camp. After all, the involuntary loss of hair coincides with a feeling of identity loss. The protagonist in this book talks about the life in the camps and how the dehumanization continued to get worse. In a seemingly objective manner, Levi reports all the small daily events, such as shaving people’s heads bald. In the first room, here in the Warande, Peter de Cupere focuses on involuntarily having your head shaved bald or having your hair cut. He combines two very different situations. On the one hand, he presents testimonials from cancer patients. The loss of hair is a well-known side-effect of chemotherapy. On the other hand, he displays testimonials from survivors of the Auschwitz extermination camp. Upon their arrival there, people had their heads shaved bald under the pretext of hygiene, even though it was clearly a form of humiliation. In his interviews about both situations, Peter de Cupere focuses on people’s olfactory memories. In the second room, the visitor enters a forest of hair. This is where Peter de Cupere displays a collection of 21,000 human hair tresses. The hair tresses each have their own scent, connected to a specific human identity. For example, the smell can refer to a perfume, to certain dietary habits, or to specific lifestyles. This way Peter de Cupere wants to restore the honor of the lost identities. This room also contains a sculpture of a boat coated with hairs. The boat symbolizes a reference to contemporary refugees who cross the sea with hopes of reaching land. Even though their hair isn’t cut, they also involuntarily lose a large part of their identity because violence forces them to leave their possessions in search of human freedom. Finally, in the third room, the artist presents six recent sculptures. They consist of herbs, as well as hair. The sculptures are anonymous figures called “Monsieur” or “Madame”. They have no senses except for their olfactory system (i.e. their sense of smell). Their noses are up in the air, as if they are exploring their surroundings. Moreover, this pose provides a somewhat stuck-up impression. The artist added a lot of humor into these sculptures, which can be read as a type of catharsis.

Visit website of de Warande


Cultuurhuis de Warande
Warandestraat 42, 2300 Turnhout, Belgium
September 9, 2016 until January 22, 2017
Opening Hours
Wednesday - Sunday 11AM - 5PM Friday 11AM - 8PM
Closing days
Monday & Tuesday