During the autumn of 2006, quirky, home-made sculptures started appearing on the grassy centres of roundabouts all over Sweden. They were usually made of planks, sticks, old rags and boxes, and painted to look like dogs.
In some ways the story bears similarities to the cows of Milton Keynes, but with a friendlier twist.
In the small town of Linköping, the local government commissioned an artwork by artist Stina Opitz. A large raised steel circle was erected on its edge in a roundabout, to frame the concrete dog, which was put in place on the 26 February, 2006.
In May the same year, it was vandalised, and the remains were removed. There was talk about replacing the concrete dog with a bronze replica, but so far, that has not come true. In September, somebody put a concrete bone in the roundabout where the dog had been. Perhaps to lure the dog back? The artist was amused, but had not put the bone there herself. Soon after, a white wooden dog had come to watch over the bone and the traffic.
It was believed that this might have been a protest against vandalism of artwork, or perhaps as a prank mocking the concept of concrete dogs as art, but in October, activists calling themselves Akademi Vreta Kloster1, or AVK2 claimed responsibility for the first Roundabout Dog. They claimed it to be a manifestation against 'demolition, antisocial behaviour and phenomena.' From their letter to the press:
We want, with our installation, to show that citizens of the general public want to live in a good environment. A safer community where we help each other instead of destroying things for each other.
Other Roundabout Dogs appeared locally. A few were vandalised, but most were left alone, or even restored if damaged.
The Roundabout Dogs were covered by the media, first locally, then regionally, and by November they had made national news. A summary in English was supplied in November.
Perhaps without realising the intent of the originators, the media coverage probably was the greatest factor for the spread of Roundabout Dogs - by the end of November, these pieces of folk art could be found throughout the nation, and seemed to multiply as fast as bunnies!
A Roundabout Dog spotter would have a wonderful time observing the styles and the dates of appearance. For a while there was also a sad prospect of removal of the dogs by traffic authorities, as there seemed to be disagreement as to whether or not the dogs distracted the drivers, thus creating a traffic hazard, until the 16 November, 2006, when it was decreed that Roundabout Dogs are not illegal. They may still be a very welcome diversion for anyone travelling with children!
Here is a selection of roundabout dogs in their natural environment:
- The original Linköping dog, which was sadly vandalised.
- The concrete bone that appeared after the original dog had been removed, also from Linköping.
- The replacement Linköping dog, this one wooden.
- Two of the dogs in Norrköping which helped to put Roundabout Dogs into the media spotlight.
- Other Roundabout Dogs from Varberg, Eriksberg and Boxholm.
Who knows where a Roundabout Dog will appear next3, or even in what country? Wouldn't it be fantastic, if a positive movement like this could spread its message around the world?