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24 February 2014 @ 02:17 pm
SFMOMA Project Los Altos: Kateřina Šedá  
seda

Kateřina Šedá: Everything Is Perfect (2013)
Sixth post in a series about the installations that are in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's Project Los Altos program

When speaking with residents of Los Altos about their lives, Šedá was stuck by the same words again and again - “It’s perfect.” Her work often focuses on social issues and fostering dialogues through shared experience; what issue could she talk about when there are no issues? A celebration of ordinary life and ordinary successes became the key to her contribution to Project Los Altos. In Everything Is Perfect, residents submit records on the everyday things that make then unique: who has the bluest eyes, or the largest collection of pens, or the biggest sculpture of a lizard? Over the course of the installation, a database of The Guinness Book of World Records-like entries is created. In the gallery, pictures of some of the local “ordinary talent winners” are displayed, while on the website EverythingIsPerfect.org visitors can view more records or submit their own.

How is this art?

A lot of visitors would ask me that.

“Sure, it’s a neat idea, and I’d love to have my grandchild submit his dinosaur collection,” they’d say, “But I really don’t understand how this qualifies as art.”

This is something I struggle with, too. It’s not art in the traditional sense that a finished piece will be created by the end of the process. The art is the process, the dialogue and the interaction between visitors. It’s an action, a type of performance art that everyone joins in. Perhaps it’s a branch of the seed planted by the work of Charles Garoian at Los Altos High School in the 1970s. On her website, Šedá writes that with her actions “she attempts to arouse a permanent change in [people’s] behavior”. What change does she encourage by gathering trivia? Appreciation for the common things in life, I suppose. A sense of shared purpose. An interaction between neighbors. A building of community. These are all noble goals, but where does mere community activism end and art begin? I don’t know and can’t say.

But the residents of Los Altos like it. As the submission deadline neared, we’d get waves of people coming in with photographs to show off their pets or their collections or their clever ideas. This was definitely the project that got the most people talking, and they did participate. So even though I don’t understand it, old-fashioned traditionalist that I am, I can’t argue that Everything Is Perfect was anything but a perfect success.