Not Without My Dog
Art trail for dogs, five stations:
The Dogs of USA
Treasury of Smells
Together Through Thick and Thin
Commissioned by Laumeier Sculpture Park St. Louis with funds from the Mark Twain Laumeier Endowment Fund and Purina
Not Without My Dog
It was Tea Mäkipää’s dream to make an artwork for animals, a job that she had always been looking for, and the opportunity finally came from Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis (US). In the decades since its founding, the sculpture park has become surrounded by suburbia. As the only larger green space in the area, the art park developed a totally new audience: dogs that were brought to look at the artworks and enjoy the fresh air on walks with their owners.
A dog’s ways of sensing its environment is often very different than a human’s. Our perceptions seem very limited when compared with the animals’ extremely developed senses of smell and hearing. Animals have the possibility to read the landscape and the traffic through it not only visually in the present as we do, but they can also read the signs of what has happened before from the odors and pheromones in the atmosphere and objects. Dogs can communicate with each other through pee-mail, which delivers all the important information of the sender piss-easy. In this artwork, Tea Mäkipää wanted to explore all the ways one could engage the canine visitors to the park.
The artwork is comprised of five stations. The first station is the "Treasury of Smells", an airy wooden shack that contains a composting bin for food and garden waste from the museum workers and the park. The architecture of the building is like that of a garden shack, allowing air and the smells of decomposing biomaterial to pass through the building for the dogs to enjoy and to host worms and saprotrophs.
The next station is called "All American Dog Houses". It consists of dog houses in five different architectural styles. In each house, a happy dog life is possible, independent of the owner’s social status or wealth. There is a "Gone with the Wind" doghouse in the style of a southern plantation house, a Harlem project high-rise doghouse, a trailer park mobile home style doghouse, a half burned down Detroit doghouse with graffiti on it, and a modernist villa following the style of Eero Saarinen. The buildings are arranged to form a village on a clearing by a walking path that passes through the forest in the park.
The third station is for dog karaoke, offering a stage with a microphone, glittery backdrop made from dog chains, and a ceiling depicting the full moon. When dogs approach, music starts. Consisting of dog sounds and tested on dogs, the "St. Louis Dog Blues" is composed by Swiss sound artist Claudia Mattai del Moro to encourage dogs to sing along.
The fourth station is a free run made from steel wires suspended between trees with leads for dogs attached to them. The owner attaches a lead to the dog’s collar, and then the dog can explore the area as they please. Since it is illegal to let dogs run absolutely free in the park, this artwork offers them an opportunity for a little bit more freedom to move without dragging their slow two-legged masters behind.
The fifth station is a U-shaped bridge over a small creek that runs through the park. The bridge crosses the creek from the walking path to a hill, loops around a tree, and returns. This allows the owners to stand comfortably with dry feet on the bridge, while letting their dogs play in the water, splashing as they please, and then climbing back up the bank to return.
Although the artwork is directed at the dog audience, addressing their capability to comprehend the environment through movement, play and all five senses, the work also hopefully helps the dog owners to bond with their pets and to experience the art together with them.