03 Jun The secret life of the Little Mermaid
When people talk about the Little Mermaid they imagine the classic Disney big eyed doll, with perfect hair and a perfect prince, that will live happily ever after. But the original Hans Cristian Andersen story is one about choosing to suffer in silence. The Little Mermaid sacrifices her hypnotic voice in order to get a second chance at life – to become human and try to seduce her lovely prince, knowing that if she fails her charms, she will die after the prince’s wedding. This is no ordinary fairy-tale and the prince turns out to be quite the contemporary douche-bag who needs a good flirt and not distant admiration, so the Little Mermaid ends up back in the sea, one with the waves, foam and water spirits.
The statue of the Little Mermaid, one of the most prominent symbols of Copenhagen, suffers from the same distortion of truth. On the surface, the Mermaid is the perfect landmark that has to show up in the photos of any tourist visiting Denmark. But in its essence, the Little Mermaid from the story has more to endure than silence and an ignorant prince in its material incarnation. Its symbolism of purity and sacrifice has more than once brought it to the attention of cultural sadists. There’s something really arousing, in a deep and sexual sense I think, in disturbing this tiny delicate but absorbed sculpture that gazes into the horizon. There’s a sense of distance and superiority that people feel the need to shatter, tarnish and bring to their own level. As a consequence, the little mermaid has, during her short life, been decapitated twice. She also had her right arm removed with a saw and she was painted with different psychedelic colours – red, pink and green to name a few. In 2003, some good souls actually thought it’s time for her to return to the sea, with a little bit of help from dynamite (rumour has it that some of our creative Romanian football supporters were to blame). She’s leading a double life, I tell you. During the day she’s all sighing and sad, but there were reports of her wearing football t-shirts, Muslim head-scarves and holding dildos during the night.
Moreover, she’s not even the original. Her sister is safely stored away from the raging and horny public by the descendants of Edward Eriksen, the sculptor who imagined her in the first place. They also have the statue’s mold, so that each time the ‘black sheep’ in the port is vandalized, it can be correctly and safely be brought back to the original state. The only time that the sister statue has been visible to the public was in 2010, when the ‘slut’ in the port took a long trip to the Shanghai 2010 exposition, rock and Danish seawater included.
Of course, the outrage doesn’t stop here. Like wearing sex toys, three different colours, posing as the headless sea-horse man and flying over eight thousand kilometres was not enough. The Little Mermaid also has to put up with the abominations of modern art. A few hundred meters north of the Little Mermaid’s lair in the port lies its ugly genetically modified sister. I really wanted to research its significance and shed some light upon its meaning, but Google is as puzzled as I am. And I’m not even going to TRY to unlock its meaning on my own, simply not worth the effort.
Of course, there’s also advantages to modern art, right?! The Little Mermaid no longer has to be alone, because Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset have engineered (and unveiled in May this year) her very own mer-man whom she can love foreeeever. Yeah he’s a bit far off in the Helsingør port unfortunately. And this mer-man is inconveniently and ironically actually a hu-man. Judging by the shininess he might actually be a veritable tin-man and I’m not sure who could love a shiny chrome android statue complete with blinking eyes. But hey The Little Mermaid might just be desperate enough.
So that is, in short, the secret life and history of the Little Mermaid, the saint, the slut, the invincible martyr who, like Jesus, keeps coming back from the still deadness of the sea. The double faced, no longer alone vixen, whose sour sad face expresses not a tragic love story, but the continuous harassment of a sexed up, confused culture which metaphorically pees on every cultural landmark in an attempt to assess its identity.
Remember: for accurate, historical details and numbers, Google is your best friend.