Artist Kateřina Šedá aims to restore regular life to tourist hotspot Český Krumlov

Český Krumlov, photo: Ondřej Tomšů

Český Krumlov is one of the country’s top destinations. However, extreme levels of tourism have forced locals out of the medieval heart of the town. Now the leading Czech artist Kateřina Šedá is planning to bring normal life back to central Český Krumlov with a highly novel, “very absurd” project.

Český Krumlov,  photo: Ondřej Tomšů
After Prague, Český Krumlov is one of the Czech Republic’s most visited destinations, its narrow streets constantly thronged in the summer months in particular.

In fact, the South Bohemian town – population 13,000 – is visited by around two million tourists every year.

The internationally renowned conceptual artist Kateřina Šedá says this has deeply impacted Český Krumlov.

“It has caused the depopulation of the centre, as has happened in Venice and other similarly plagued destinations. Also the locals are divided into two groups – they call it a schizophrenic town. Locals live on the outskirts and often don’t even want to enter the centre.”

To highlight this situation, Šedá is planning to engage individuals and families to live in the very heart of the medieval town for three months this summer.

“I will offer residents starter apartments, which are usually provided to young families and the socially excluded. I’m also offering them jobs on the basis of what Krumlov most needs – and that is the pursuit of normal life. They will do this in the centre during the high tourist season and we’ll pay them for it.”

Šedá famously brought a whole Czech village to London’s Tate Modern in 2011.

Her art frequently involves social themes and she insists her latest project is not intended as a show for tourists.

Kateřina Šedá,  photo: BKMzastavka,  CC BY-SA 3.0
“The ideas generated should result in a book or film. The aim is above all to absorb the experiences of the participants, not to perform some theatre. Naturally I am aware of the pitfalls and I did a lot of research in Krumlov. And of course our approach is very absurd.”

The project is entitled UNES-CO, which is a play on the Czech words “unést” and “co”, meaning “take away” and “what” – as in, What do visitors get out of the place? It refers to the fact Český Krumlov is on the UNESCO world heritage list.

Kateřina Šedá’s novel social experiment will begin in late May and is the Czech Republic’s entry in the Venice Architecture Biennale.

During that prestigious exhibition a “UNES-CO” office at the Czech pavilion will carry a live video feed from the streets of Český Krumlov.