For Every Dog a Different Master
For every dog a different master by Czech artist Kateřina Šedá was shown in 2007 at the 12th Documenta in German Kassel. However, the full audience of the project, according to the artist, was its members—the Czech residents of the outskirts of Brno.
The starting point for work on the project was a government run program to regenerate high rise housing, by painting multi-storeyed buildings on the outskirts of Czech towns in bright colors. In practice the lives of the inhabitants of these areas only changed slightly—they still spent it mostly in the city center and in the evening return to their districts, where most did not know their neighbors.
The goal was to establish communication between disparate people who were not proud of their area. She chose these multi-colored houses as a a symbol, printing the image onto a 1000 shirts.
These 1000 shirts were packaged in to separate envelopes. Each envelope was signed and sent to a recipient; the senders themselves, residents of the area, were also listed. As a result, in one day, 1000 people received an envelope with a shirt from a randomly selected neighbor in the area.
A month after the mailing, residents who were unwittingly taking part in the project received a letter of invitation to the opening of the exhibition. But the exhibition itself and the documentation of the project were secondary, the main thing that was the opening day, and communication which lasted the whole month, in which neighbors in the area —in an attempt to unravel the mystery, began a new conversation, like found school friends.
The other side of this and other works by Kateřina is an appeal to the communist past of the country, the experience of collectivization, which gave way to the privatization of public space. The topics raised in this project are not unfamiliar to most residents of former-Soviet countries.
Many of the guests came to the opening wearing shirts they had received the month before. This project illustrates a situation in which the artist and the information carrier withdraws, and the participants in the project are brought together and focus their attention on their neighbors.
According to Kateřina, galleries and museums are taking away from the spontaneity of her work, putting the documentation of work in an artificial space.
In another of a similar project, which was attended by residents of a small village Ponetovichi, an artist for a year persuaded the locals to perform boring routine actions in one and the same time: at 7 o'clock to go to the grocery store at 10:30 to ride on cycling, 17:00 drink beer together in a tavern, and simultaneously turn off at 22:00 in the flat light. These simple steps taken together, gave rise to a true celebration of the everyday co-existence of ordinary people.
Once these projects received publicity in the media, Kateřina received invitations from other villages and outlying areas to implement similar projects; in response the artist encouraged them to do it themselves.