“Creating a sculptural art work that will be installed in a public space is significantly different from showing it in the context of a museum. Visitors who enter a museum have already prepared themselves for a visual experience; whereas an audience outside a museum hasn’t actually asked to have an artistic experience – that is important to bear in mind when you, as an artist, are commissioned to do a public sculpture. The sculpture must communicate on all kinds of levels.” Elmgreen & Dragset.
Han‘ is a public sculpture commissioned by the city of Helsingborg to the the London and Berlin-based artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset. The title means ‘he’ in Danish, but it is actually also the name of Michael’s boyfriend back in London. The work is situated in front of the castle Krongborg which is the very location of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
The sculpture is so to say a contemporary and male paraphrase of the danish national icon the Little Mermaid. It depicts a young man posing on a rock – he sits in the same way as the famous Little Mermaid does and the stone has the exact shape of the stone used for his ‘older sister’. But the entire sculpture, both figure and stone, is cast in stainless steel. further more a hydraulic mechanism can shut the eyes of the sculpture for a split second every 30 minutes.
The high gloss, polished, mirroring stainless steel is a clear contrast to the original and female mermaid who was cast in bronze. The reflecting stainless steel adds an almost psychedelic dimension to its visual aesthetics. The surroundings get distorted and morphed in the glossy skin of the sculpture, and the imagery changes according to the angle from which the sculpture is viewed.