A new sculpture that was installed in Tjörnin pond on Friday night as part of the Cycle Music and Art Festival has raised some eyebrows in downtown Reykjavík for its resemblance to a phallus, mbl.isreports. Artist Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir acknowledges the similarity, but says it wasn’t the original point of the work, which, among other things, is meant to celebrate Iceland’s 100-year anniversary as a sovereign nation.
“Hafpulsan,” which has been called “The Little Pond Dog,” in English, or in other places, “The Little Mer-Sausage,” takes its name from the combination of the Icelandic words for ‘mermaid’ (hafmeyja) and ‘hot dog’ (pulsa/pylsa). And while its shape may indeed bear some resemblance to male genitalia, The Mersausage also strikes a pose similar to that of the famous sculpture of H.C. Andersen’s Little Mermaid, which is famously perched alongside a Copenhagen waterway. Icelandic artist Nína Sæmundsson also sculpted her own bronze version of the Danish sculpture, which has been a resident of Tjörnin pond since 2014.
“It’s a hot dog that is sitting like a mermaid on a little bread roll out in the pond,” explained Steinunn. “It’s sitting tall and pleased with itself, but then it’s also a little mer-sausage in a pond, some kind of strange, handless creature that has no idea how powerful it is. It’s also a bit uncanny,” she continued.
Steinunn does, however, acknowledge some gender play in her sculpture. “It is both a mermaid, which is generally female, and also a penis, in that it’s pretty difficult to work with this sausage form without it turning into a penis. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” she said.
The theme of this year’s Cycle Festival is “A Nation Among Nations,” which artistic director Guðný Guðmundsdóttir says concludes a two-year research project on Icelandic sovereignty in the context of colonial history. The inspiration for Steinunn’s sculpture actually dates back to 2009, when the artist made a video and installation called “Lýðræðið er pulsa,” or “Democracy is a Hot Dog,” which was exhibited in advance of parliamentary elections.
“…[I]t ignited my interest in a hot dog as a metaphor,” explained Steinunn. “The idea with the video was that a hot dog in its hot dog bun is an obligation—it is democracy. We can’t choose what it’s like, whether we have it or not—we’re born into it. But what we can choose are the toppings and when we go to vote, we’re [also] choosing toppings. But in the end, we’re all eating hot dogs and the difference between parties is greater than the difference between remoulade and mustard, all of it just rather cheap ‘junk,’” she said. “Democracy is a Hot Dog” has since been shown on election days in 2009, 2013, 2016, and 2017.
“Hafpulsan” will be on display in Tjörnin pond until December. Steinunn says her dream is for a bronze cast of the sculpture to be installed in Tjörnin in perpetuity. “I hope that most people get a kick out of it and that it’s an inspiration in the broadest sense. In the end, it’s just some strange creature that lives in the pond.”