February 2022. 

In 1865 a young male blue whale swam astray in the Askim bay on the Swedish west-coast. Two fishermen killed him and sold him to Mr Malm, a taxidermist and curator at the Gothenburg museum of natural history; thereby the name The Malm whale. It is supposed to be the only taxidermied blue whale in the world. With its neck hinged the upper jaw can be bent backwards thus opening up for visitors to enter. The interior is rigged with benches along the sides and a table for the intake of a nice meal. The whale was closed as couples started having sex inside of it. Nowadays it is only open every fourth year- the “valår”/ “election year” which also can be understood as the “whale year” in Swedish. 

The whole setting is both spectacular and bizarre. It brings about questions on what we, as humans, consider natural resources, about accountability and exploitment and how far we can go to gain attention and acknowledgement. The Malm whale states an example of a cruel slaughter of a mammal from the past- but are we any better today?

For three days in February 2022, Karen Froede stayed with it, interviewing spectators surrounding the whale, touching it, smelling it, reflecting on the context and trying to figure it out. Her reflections summarized below:

By: Karen Froede, February 2022

I asked why 
she was carving 
her “tag” 
into the skin
She said 
she thought
it was to prolong 
her own self in time
She said 

she thought 
it was plastic anyway
I said
it is real skin
She looked bewildered 
not ashamed

He said 
it was a stinking pile 
of nails and dried
She said it was 
a remarkable piece
to show 
her grandchildren

He said:
I think I was inside it one.

She said 
it is a pure resource 
to mankind
Then she added: 
but that was long ago.
He said
It used to be an attraction
-a object mere
for human satisfaction

Then he added: 
but that was long ago.

Before it was open, but
couples started 
making love
inside of it

So they closed it
with a hinge 
in the back of its neck.

whale in Swedish
election in Swedish
Every fourth year 
as it is “val”-year 

it’s entire 
upper jaw 
will be bent back
at that hinge
so people can walk
up a ladder 
and inside
a fun pun 

This year it is 
It is year 2022
It is now
not long ago