Is This Mankind
by Peter de Cupere (Belgium)

Project lead: Peter de Cupere
Perfumer: Various
Collaborators: Annelies Nagels and Tom Viaene, Koan Jeff Baysa
Fragrances supported by IFF Research lab, Bernardo Fleming and his team of expert fragrance designers (olfactive design): Meabh Mc Curtin, Gregoire Hausson, Christian Alori
Organization exhibition: De Warande, Turnhout, Be
Curators exhibition: Annelies Nagels and Tom Viaene
With thanks to the interviewed survivors of Auschwitz (Andre Jakubowski, Marie Lipstadt, Paul Sobol) and chemotherapy (Marieke and Oda, Nico)
Release: September, 2016 at De Warande in Turnhout, BE
Finalist Category: Sadakichi Award for Experimental Work with Scent, 2017

Three olfactory spaces, one total. In the first space, I focus on involuntarily having your head shaved bald or having your haircut. I combine two very different situations. On the one hand, I present testimonials from cancer patients. The loss of hair is a well-known side-effect of chemotherapy. On the other hand, I display 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 my interviews about both situations, I focus on people’s olfactory memories.

In the second space, the visitor enters a forest of hair. This is where I display 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 I want 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 space, I present 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. Their noses are up in the air, as if they are exploring their surroundings. Moreover, this pose provides a somewhat stuck-up impression. I added a lot of humor into these sculptures, which can be read as a type of catharsis.