Centre for Philosophy and Visual Arts 


The power of public monuments to shape social identities is a rich topic to uncover. The shifts in how we regard them at different times and in differing circumstances can be tremendous. In some cases, large-scale artworks are meant to capture the eye and produce a reaction. More often than not, we view with a sense of indifference. They become a part of the everyday scenery.

The latter applies to the Viking statue of Thorfinn Karlsefni, by Icelandic sculpturer Einar Jónson, situated next to a neighborhood cinema’s parking lot in Reykjavík, Iceland. Moviegoers pay little to no attention to Karlsefni; he is only one of many Viking statues situated around the country, which usually symbolize a historical period in Iceland’s history, a memoir from the 20th-century independence movement.

Karlsefni, however, has a scandalous twin. The other cast of Thorfinn Karlsefni, formerly situated in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, was toppled in 2018 and dragged into the Schuylkill River because of the sculpture’s problematic political connotations. The story of whom visual and performance artist Hugo Llanes traces in his work: Thorfinn Karlsefni, performed at the Einar Jónsson Museum.