A Story for You to Continue is an exhibition that opens up multiple narratives evolving around tragic stories of one specific species: the giraffe. Starting point for these narratives is the story of Marius the giraffe that formerly inhabited the Copenhagen Zoo. Marius’ life was terminated on 9 February 2014 to “provide space for more genetically valuable giraffes.”The dissection of the giraffe’s carcass was turned into a public event with – according to the zoo – educational purposes, including feeding parts of the giraffe to other zoo animals. This incident naturally fostered overall ethical debates about what it means to terminate the life of an animal termed genetically unfit for reproduction. But it also highlights how such an incident is turned into a pedagogical instrument that lives its life beyond the actual event.

How are we being taught about an animal with exotic connotations that has also repeatedly been subject to geopolitical transactions? How do our children incorporate these into their learning experiences to try to get an understanding of the world around them? How does the giraffe act as a political token in a colonial and post-colonial context? How is the exoticised image of an animal shaped by the Western societies we are a part of? And how are these stories being told and retold?

When entering the exhibition space, the visitor at first encounters a ready-made cardboard box of a “Dr. Oetker Giraffe Neck Swiss Roll Cake Baking Mix” elevated and protected in a vitrine. Now termed a valuable object in itself, the cake mix becomes an ironic gesture that sets the scene for various giraffe stories of both tragic and comic significance. A colourful exhibition space that evokes, as Gmelin himself puts it, an African waiting room, physically invites us to trace stories from different perspectives: at children’s height we encounter several dozens postcard-sized, hand-painted photographs that visualize a vaudeville-like performance in memory of Marius the giraffe. This performance Gmelin originally initiated together with his colleagues and students at the Oslo National Academy of Art in 2015. While listening to the soundtrack of that same performance, we are invited to move along in the space to encounter Gmelin’s investigations, which take the form of artistic anthropological research.

Handcrafted wallpapers with non-Western patterns and their corresponding Western appropriations divide the exhibition into chapters and points of reflection to direct our view onto other exhibition elements such carefully framed portraits of discoverers, emperors and leaders that play a significant role in telling the story of the giraffe – which in turn stand in a comical dialogue with Gmelin’s humorous portrait series depicting his colleague Jeremiah Day in attempt to look like that very same animal.

With Gmelin’s tragicomical approach, A Story for You to Continue is an invitation to revisit historical events through repetitive exercise. Every single element in the exhibition points not only at individual giraffe stories but also uses these to visualize how they contribute and shape the notion of exoticism and how they are inextricably linked to colonialism and inherent power dynamics. A Story for You to Continue is an invitation to create our own stories and thereby question on a superordinate level how these are being told to us.

Felix Gmelin (born 1962 Heidelberg) lives and works in Oslo. He is currently professor at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts but has also been teaching widely at other institutions including Konstfack, Stockholm, Städelschule, Frankfurt a.M. and De Ateliers, Amsterdam. Gmelin has exhibited widely internationally and has presented his work in solo exhibitions at Edith-Russ-Haus, Oldenburg, Germany (2016), Krognoshuset, Lund (2013), Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm (2012), Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam (2011), Milliken, Stockholm (2010), Vilma Gold Gallery, London (2009), Portikus, Frankfurt (2005), Malmö Konstmuseum, Malmö (2005) or maccarone inc., New York (2004). Gmelin has also participated extensively in group exhibitions, amongst them Experiences of inoculation / Shiryaevo Biennale 1999 -2016, NCCA, National Center for Contemporary Arts, Moscow (2017), Uchronies, BPS22, Musée d'art de la Province de Hainaut, Charleroi (2016), Picasso in Contemporary Art, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (2015), Progress and Hygiene, Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw (2014), Punctum, Bemerkungen zur Photographie, Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg (2014), Version Control, Arnolfini, Bristol (2013), Vanuit Hier – Out Of Here, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2011), Carnegie Art Award 2010, Listasafn Islands, Reykjavik, Konstakademien, Stockholm, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo (2010), Not Quite How I Remember It, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto (2008), Stalking with Stories: The Pioneers of the Un-Rememberable, Apexart, New York (2007), History Will Repeat Itself, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin and Hartware, Medien KunstVerein at Phoenix Halle Dortmund (2007), Think with the Senses - Feel with the Mind. Art in the Present Tense, La 52 Biennale di Venezia, Arsenale, Venice (2007), Left Pop (bringing it back home), 2nd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art - Special projects, Moscow Museum of Modern Art at Petrovka, Moscow (2007), Anachronism, Argos - Centre for Art & Media, Brussels (2007), Of Mice and Men, 4. Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2006), The Moderna Exhibition 2006, Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2006), Ahistoric Occasion: Artists Making History, MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts (2006).