As It Happens

Floating Icelandic statue is a mermaid, a hotdog and a metaphor for democracy: artist

Steinunn Gunnlaugsdottir says her work of art floating the centre of Reykjavik, Iceland, means different things to different people.

'This work seems to talk to people on just many different levels,' says Steinunn Gunnlaugsdottir

Folks in Reykjavik have compared this floating pond statue to a penis, fecal matter, a hot dog and a mermaid. (Valgarour Gunnarsson/Submitted by Steinunn Gunnlaugsdottir )
Listen5:35

Steinunn Gunnlaugsdottir says her work of art floating in the centre of Reykjavik, Iceland, means different things to different people.

Litla Hafpuls­an, which according to the Iceland Review, has been dubbed The Little Pond Dog and The Little Mer-Sausage in English, is a two-metre-long floating statue that looks like a beige wiener with a mermaid's tail, perched on a yellow bun and floating in Tjornin pond near city hall.

"This work seems to talk to people on just many different levels," Gunnlaugsdottir told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"Even some people who don't even know about this and just see this kind of penis that still has the feminine side, like of a mermaid, and it's like kind of a sexual tie, or like a mix, which somehow appeals to them.

"People also see, like, sh-t, like a dog sh-t, or like a f--k you fingers — yeah, all kinds of things."

When asked what it actually is, Gunnlaugsdottir refused to answer definitively. 

"I prefer to let this work be a little bit open — but it has a lot of references to all kinds of symbolism," she said.

She created the statue in honour of 100 years of Icelandic sovereignty from Denmark. In some ways, she said the statue represents the country's continued ties to its colonial roots.

"People say that the hotdog is like the national dish, which is a little bit funny, because it's also the national dish of Denmark, and Iceland used to be a colony of Denmark," she said.

"So I always found that relation quite interesting because ... when Iceland went independent, they took so many other elements from Denmark."

Called Hafpulsan, the statue is a symbol of Iceland's independence from Denmark, says artist Steinunn Gunnlaugsdottir. (Valgarour Gunnarsson/Submitted by Steinunn Gunnlaugsdottir)

What's more, she said, the hotdog is a metaphor for democracy.

"If the hot dog is the democracy, then the toppings on the hotdog, like the ketchup and whatever you prefer, is basically the parties that you can vote for," she said.

"So we can't really choose whether we have the hotdog or not, but we can choose what kind of toppings we have."

Litla Hafpuls­an will be on display in the pond until December, according to the Iceland Review. Depending on who you ask, that's either too soon or not soon enough.

"Some people are just furious and just want it out right now," Gunnlaugsdottir said. "And other people are like wanting to actually make a Facebook group where they fight for it to stand forever."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Tracy Fuller. 

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