Project Description

Beneath the streets of a major European capital, a network of labyrinthine corridors wind through the basement sepulchres of a science museum. To the visitor is revealed door upon door, behind which human archivists tend to an eerie human archive of skulls, teeth, hair, fingernails, and other body parts harvested from the undesirable humans of Africa, Asia, and Europe. From Russian political prisoners to African tribesmen, Jews, Roma, and other targeted specimens of humanity, the scientists attempted an ambitious project whose legacy continues to unfold in science and society. Today, the crates and boxes of their work remain behind.

Artist Statement

When I first encountered the archives, it was an unexpected interaction with the very intellectual and mechanical process of dehumanization. Amidst the specimens, I felt an urge to rehumanize this seemingly diabolical collection. As the sheer quantity of human body parts began to emerge, I was struck by the scientific context for what is typically shamanic and witchcraft iconography (collections of human skulls and bones, and spooky boxes of matter that seem disinterred from a grave). As the hours passed, it became a challenge to retain respect for “science” as I travelled deeper and deeper into its temple.

Later, when I was drinking hot wine in the snow of the Christmas Market, I talked to a colleague about the day’s fieldwork experience. I said I was struck by the sense that I’d witnessed a kind of theater of science, a scientific theatricality. She said the word in German for “usher” at a theater is essentially translated as “filer of humans.”

After creating the initial film, I decided to embark upon a performance collaboration that would introduce poetry, music, and movement to the piece. I am curious to inhabit this friction between humans who dehumanize and rehumanize one another…working with living human bodies seems an intriguing way to embark upon that meditation.


by Quintan Ana Wikswo
translated into German by Uljana Wolf

first performed at Dixon Place


Sixth Box.

There is a picking up, and a putting down. A way of securing, of tying down. Don’t let it out! Turn off the light! There are dog prints here, in the dust. There is a guard dog down here, in the dark, in the dust. Turn off the light. There is a putting away. There is a setting aside. There is an opening in the wall. They call it a door. We call it a hole they have driven us through. They call it a vault. We call it a womb. We mean, a tomb. They call it an ending and we mean, is it over now? Can we leave? And they show us: there is an opening in the wall. They call it a door. We call it a hole. They have thrown us down it. They call it a relationship, We call it an atrocity. We mean: anguish. They call it a beginning and they mean: your world, here, is finished. Would you leave? And we show them: there is an opening in the floor. You call it hell. We mean: remembering. We have drawn you into it. We say draw. We mean crawl. We show you how to do it. We must get down, small. They say it is too small. We say, it is smaller. There is a smallness here that opens, and we say, your world is over. And they say, Can we leave now?  And they mean, don’t leave us alone in this place.

Sechster Kasten

Es gibt das Aufheben, es gibt das Abstellen. Es gibt Arten, zu sichern, festzubinden. Lasst es nicht raus! Licht aus! Hundespuren hier im Staub. Ein Wachhund hier, im Dunkeln, Staub. Mach das Licht aus. Es gibt das Wegstellen. Es gibt das aus dem Weg Räumen. Da ist eine Öffnung in der Wand. Sie nennen es Tür. Wir nennen es ein Loch, durch das sie uns trieben. Sie nennen es Gewölbe. Wir nennen es Schoß. Wir meinen Gruft. Sie nennen es Ausgang und wir meinen: Ist es jetzt vorbei? Können wir gehen? Und sie zeigen uns: Da ist eine Öffnung in der Wand. Sie nennen es Tür. Wie nennen es Loch. Sie warfen uns hinein. Sie nennen es eine Beziehung. Wir nennen es Gräueltaten. Wir meinen Qualen. Sie nennen es einen Anfang und sie meinen: Eure Welt, hier, ist fertig. Würdet ihr jetzt gehen? Und wir zeigen ihnen: Da ist eine Öffnung im Boden. Ihr nennt es Hölle. Wir meinen: Erinnern. Wir ziehen euch hinein. Wir sagen ziehen, wir meinen: Kriechen. Wir zeigen euch, wies geht. Wir müssen auf den Boden, klein. Sie sagen: Es ist zu klein. Wir sagen: Es ist kleiner. Da ist ein Kleinsein, das sich öffnet, und wir sagen: Eure Welt ist jetzt vorbei. Sie sagen: Können wir jetzt gehen? Und sie meinen: Lasst uns nicht allein an diesem Ort. 

Published in dixon place




VOLKERKUNDE / ANTHROPOLOGY is created with the support of Creative Capital, the Jewish Museum Munich, and Ebenboeckhaus.

First Performed at Ebenboeckhaus (Munich)

Written and Filmed by Quintan Ana Wikswo
Music Composed and Performed by Arthur Kell
Dance Choreographed and Performed by Alexx Shilling

Body of Work: