Undoubtedly the star of last year’s less-than-inspiring biennial circuit, Katerina Sedá’s personally and socially invested work – in evidence at the Berlin Biennial and Manifesta 7 – brought together so much that was lacking on a formal and conceptual level in much of the work that surrounded hers. Quietly consistent, Sedá’s projects in both exhibitions displayed disarming attention to the imbrication of life and art once identified as such by her subtle hand. In Berlin Sedá’s project involved the investigation of the recent development of ‘private space’ in the Czech Republic and its denomination through the construction of increasingly elaborate fences and partitions between neighbouring properties. Sedá’s project focused on her hometown, Lìšen, and involved not the destruction of these barriers but rather their defiance and replication. First the artist persuaded her neighbors to allow her to traverse their properties following a straight line from the train station to her family home (a work beautifully documented in drawings and sculptural form), and in a later development Sedá copied the varying styles of wall and fence joining these sections together to form a hybrid enclosure that was placed in an abandoned allotment in Berlin. For Manifesta, Sedá’s point of concentration was closer to hand but similarly of relevance for a larger social sphere. After her grandmother fell into a depression following the death of her husband, Sedá devised a series of exercises to bring her back into a communicative state. Sedá persuaded her to try to recollect and then draw every item sold in the hardware shop she managed in Brno for 33 years, and then wrote up a series of questionnaires to be answered according to a strict daily regimen: ‘How did liberation look in Lìšen? Describe!’ ‘Name all the hospitals where you have been a patient!’ Merging a socially invested practice with conceptual techniques Sedá has managed to forge a compelling new terrain.
This article was first published in the March 2009 issue.