Not getting around

You might guess that a roundabout dog would get around a lot. But no; with the recently conceived breed of roundabout dogs this is certainly not the case. A 'roundabout' as such is just a circular piece of modest traffic machinery, designed to facilitate the crossing of motor traffic in places where two roads or streets intersect. A roundabout dog happens be an artistic 3D image of a mongrel dog, permanently situated on the central island of a roundabout.

Rapidly spreading species

The phenomenon of roundabout dogs has virtually exploded in Sweden in less than a year. A year ago nobody had even heard of roundabout dogs. Now they can be found in the middle of almost every Swedish roundabout, invariably designed by anonymous artists. These puzzling dogs have even managed to spread themselves abroad: one roundabout dog has been reported from Rome and another from Priština, the capital of Kosovo. Roundabout dogs have been seen in Norway, Belgium, UK and reportedly even in South Africa.

It all started in March 2006 in Linköping, a middle-sized Swedish town (and the birthplace of SAAB fighter planes and automobiles). Builders of most taxpayer-funded new roads in Europe are required to spend a certain fraction of the building cost on "artistic decoration". The decoration of a new roundabout outside Linköping was entrusted to the local sculptor Stina Opitz. She decided to adorn the place with a huge, red-painted hula hoop, erected skyward at a 45-degree angle -- and a life-sized mongrel dog, sculpted in concrete.

Play on words

Why place a sculpture of a dog in the middle of a roundabout? Well, it turns out to be a kind of incarnation in concrete of a particular play on words in Swedish. The word for 'cross-breed' in Swedish is simply 'crossing' (= korsning), so 'street-crossing' could mean one of two things: (1) a street intersection or, (2) a 'street-breed'. Dogs of unclear ancestry are often jokingly called 'street crossings' in Swedish.

The location of artist Opitz' mongrel dog was consequently perfectly logical: it was standing in a roundabout, i.e. in a 'street crossing', and it was in itself a 'street crossing' (= a 'street breed').

Soon after the new roundabout with its enormous red hula hoop and mongrel dog had been officially opened, unknown vandals decapitated the concrete dog. Being beyond repair, it was removed. But after a few days a different 3D dog image appeared on the roundabout island, seemingly from nowhere. This new 'street crossing' was made out of scraps of wood. It made no pretension to realistic depiction; it was rather leaning toward a cubistic or picassoesque style of artistic expression. But there was no doubt that it was meant to represent a dog with an unspecified pedigree.

Memorial to a victim of vandalism

The story of senseless vandalism and of what seemed like an anonymous wooden memorial to the vandalised sculpture made the local papers. The story crept into the national media as well. After some weeks a sighting of a 'roundabout dog' was reported from a completely unrelated roundabout in the vicinity. Pretty soon crudely made dog sculptures started to appear in scores of roundabouts.

The idea quickly spread from the original Linköping area. In a matter of months roundabout dogs could be seen in the entire country, from its southernmost tip to its arctic north. The artistic expressions of the roundabout dogs vary enormously, but most belong in the 'modern art' category and they are always the work of anonymous artists.

Hands off!

There have been faint attempts by the authorities to combat the phenomenon of roundabout dogs ("illegal littering of public traffic areas"), but to no avail. When a municipal art museum announced plans to collect a number of the dog sculptures for an art exhibition, it was met by a public uproar: "This is spontaneous and genuine folk art, not something for authorities, artistic or otherwise, to be meddling in! Roundabout dogs belong to the People!" So the roundabout dog movement can apparently also be seen as an anarchist People's Guerrilla.

For readers who might be visiting Sweden and who wish to enquire about the roundabout dogs, it may be helpful to know that the word for 'roundabout' in Swedish is rondell and that 'roundabout dog' is rondellhund.

Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, March 11, 2007
You can see a few examples of roundabout dogs if you "image-Google" for rondellhund

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