As you walk through the MONDO CANE exhibition, some of the 21 puppets made by Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys miraculously come to life. The boundary with the audience blurs. Which is the puppet? Which is the human? The visitor’s guide provides a biography of each character, born of the imaginations of the two artists. However, several of the puppets actually have a connection to reality. Discover their stories here.
Guido De Belder
The character of painter Guido De Belder (1939-2004) bears a remarkable resemblance to the man he is based on. He did indeed live in Louvain, but he was a film actor and singer. He appeared in over forty Belgian, French and Portuguese films. He corresponded with Hollywood greats like Roger Moore and Bob Hope, in the hope of breaking through as a film star in America.
Despite all this, he stayed under the radar both at home and abroad and never achieved the stardom he had dreamed of. Perhaps his performance as an artist in MONDO CANE is his (inter)national breakthrough?
Ilse Koch (1906-1967) was the wife of the camp commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp during the Second World War. A notorious sadist, she was known as ‘the witch of Buchenwald’. “Frau Koch has a character that was the equal of that of her husband in terms of greed, arrogance and cruelty.” SS judge Konrad Morgen also called her a nymphomaniac who had sexual relationships with her husband’s colleagues. Furthermore, she apparently made lampshades, gloves and book covers from the skin of inmates. These are just some of the horrific deeds of Ilse Koch. Sentenced to life imprisonment, she ultimately took her own life in her cell in 1967.
In MONDO CANE she is given a lighter role – and that’s an understatement – as a potter who ran a cafe after the war, ultimately perishing in a fire in 1967.
Flap en Flop
Rumours circulate that Flap and Flop represent the artists themselves, thanks to their remarkable physical similarities. Jos De Gruyter and Harald Thys met in the 1980s at the Sint-Lukas Academie in Brussels, where they studied film. Their videos are characterised by exaggerated gestures, sad environments and depraved characters. This world is also home to the puppets in MONDO CANE, who are condemned to a monotonous existence and confinement in the Centre for Fine Arts.
The two men in bathrobes previously appeared in Het Geel van Gent from 2005. Fifteen years on, they have found their way to the Centre for Fine Arts.
MONDO CANE has been extended! You can still experience the exhibition until 21 July. Before you visit, read our tips and precautions.