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The Zoo Story, 2007

The Zoo Story (2007) is a good example of alternative narrative models. Friedl had a stuffed giraffe transported on loan from the West Bank to Kassel for documenta 12 and displayed in the

documenta Halle. Brownie, a bull giraffe from South Africa, had lived in the Qalqiliya Zoo in the West Bank since 1997. One night, following an Israeli military operation during the Second Intifada, the animal panicked, fell to the ground, and eventually died on August 19, 2002; it was subsequently prepared, stuffed, and mounted by the zoo’s veterinarian. Along with other animals that died at the zoo, the taxidermy giraffe stood in a museum-like annex of the zoo (where it returned after documenta ended). Instead of (re)producing pictorial documents from a situation of political crisis oversaturated with images, Friedl turns the giraffe itself into a “document,” thus short-circuiting the opposition between image and reality, representation and thing, image and original inasmuch as it is itself the (dead) “original” that tests its own representability in the expositional dispositif of documenta 12.

Peter Friedl, The Zoo Story, 2007, Taxidermy giraffe from the Qalqiliya Zoo, 351 x 66 x 278 cm, documenta 12, Kassel, foto: Katrin Schilling
Peter Friedl, The Zoo Story, 2007, Taxidermy giraffe from the Qalqiliya Zoo, 351 x 66 x 278 cm, documenta 12, Kassel, foto: Jens Ziehe

Taxidermy giraffe from the Qalqiliya Zoo
351 x 66 x 278 cm
documenta 12, Kassel
fotos: Katrin Schilling, Jens Ziehe

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Peter Friedl

Peter Friedl is a classic of contemporary art. The three-time documenta participant, born in 1960, can be considered a notorious participant in discourse - because his work has always understood how to address major themes in such a way that they found and find new forms away from the canon and mainstream. Forms that run counter to power and domination, subvert them, escape them.... and confront them in the process. Friedl takes away from history - for example colonialism or modernity, its paradigms and institutions - the power to define what is connected and how, and with an almost innocent-seeming aesthetic he tells a different story about humans and historical actions than we are used to and may find opportune. Peter Friedl provokes that which dominates us, including our own thinking. Throughout the years he his work has been displayed in meaningful solo exhibitions, most recently Teatro Popular (KOW Berlin, 2023), Report 1964-2022 (KW Berlin 2022) and No Prey, No Pay (Guido Costa Projects Turin, 2021) and major group exhibitions such as Life, Without Buildings, Gta exhibitions (ETH Zurich 2022), Das Auto rosi aber (KOW Berlin 2022) and Komunikazion - Inkomunikazio (Tabakalera, Centre for Contemporary Art, San Sebastian 2021).

Full Biography