Every spring, the smallest of Koholmarna (cow [grazing] islets) in Kalmar is besieged by over a hundred birds. They are mainly black-headed gulls, but there are also mallards, sea gulls, great-crested grebes, tufted ducks and the occasional swan. Needless to say, there’s no way anyone goes there if they can avoid it. In the winter, ice sometimes grows thick enough to walk over to this little islet. Wouldn’t it be great to put something there just before the ice gets too thin to cross, or at least just before the birds arrive? It would be nearly impossible to remove it, even if the town council would want to.
After discarding a few moderately amusing ideas, I came up with a great one; the hound from Duck Hunt! Not only is it a funny thing and rather unexpected, but having birds nesting and flying all around it gives it an extra dimension. I’m almost sure the idea was influenced by visits to the (then) rather new site, Spritestitch, and of course the old street art piece where Mario is jumping out of a tube.
The material was a discarded plywood and a few boards that had been sitting for 20 years in the “might-be-useful-one-day”-storage of my workplace, Kalmar County Museum, and left over paint found at home. The green paint was procured from a school supply closet and the orange paint was bought in a test can (40 SEK, about 4 euros).
Winter and spring was spent occasionally working on the project, first measuring the plywood, then drawing the pattern (first a 3×3 cm grid, then marking the colours), sawing the shape and putting the pieces together. After some trouble with the masking tape, I started painting in late June. By the 8th July 2010 it was done, and ready to be placed on the islet.
I weighed the dog, calculated how much air would be required to achieve flotation for it and some tools and taped the appropriate number of empty 2 litre Coca Cola bottles to the back side. The idea was to use it as a raft on the way there, swimming behind it – I don’t remember the plan for getting the tools back to shore again, if there was one. Anyhow, me and brother strapped the roof our mother’s car and off we went.
The planned launch site for H.M.S. Dog turned out to be rather crowded with sun bathers, and the islet itself (point A) was still slightly bird-infested. I decided to switch to a the larger one of Koholmarna, which is bird-free and wading distance from shore. The bottles were taken off, and down to the water we went.
I waded across with the dog, and then again with the tools, and carried it all through the high reed and short pines on the islet. My brother stayed shore-side to photograph and help direct the placement. The position I chose (point B) had a lot of nice, green grass and some short, green young reed, in spite of the extended heatwave. The dog was dug in facing one of the main roads leading into Kalmar’s town centre and fixed into the ground using a board and a length of rebar to withstand the somewhat strong winds. The process took just under an hour (damn rocks!).
Surprisingly few people seemed to notice me working on the island, and those who did pretended not to – not that I blame them. For a week, nothing particular happened, until a man by the name of Petter Feltenstedt called the local media (Barometern and Östran newspapers, P4 Kalmar radio station). The response in the paper’s website comment fields, which were still open to unregistered users back then, was large by local standards, and completely positive. It even spread to Kotaku via hObbe’s blog.
I had told people I knew that I was behind the dog and not really tried to keep it a secret, though making it clear I was not interested in getting mass-medial attention. Still, by the 24th July the largest of the local papers had found out I was behind it and I agreed to give an interview, sporting a serial killer look in the photo they chose. By the 20th August I returned to the islet with my brother, and we removed the dog. By then the local chavs had renamed it ÅKE and drawn a swastika, regretted it and changed it into four squares; the fine line between street art and plain vandalism made perfectly clear for once.
Materials: Plywood (re-used, free), supporting boards (re-used, free), nails (re-used, free), supporting length of rebar (procured from the remnants of the failed Chinese Fanerdun project, free), orange paint (test can, 4 euros) and other paints (left-overs and donated, free). Total cost: 4 euros – worth every cent.