When Katerina Šedá, an artist from the Czech Republic, arrived in Los Altos this fall to research and design a commissioned installation for “Project Los Altos: SFMOMA in Silicon Valley,” she heard from residents time and again that “everything is perfect” in the community.
“I was so tired of hearing this that I wanted to use it in the project,” said Šedá, who decided to collect “ordinary” records for inclusion in “Everything Is Perfect,” a project that culminates in the publication of the “Los Altos World Records” book next spring.
Observing that many local residents were already winners in life, Šedá wanted to produce something that offers a different perspective on what it means to be “the best.” Twisting the assumption that only world records count, “Los Altos World Records” intends to show that every person can be successful at something.
Selecting from a list of existing record categories or one that a resident proposes, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents can submit records through Jan. 31, after which the submissions will be verified and category winners declared. As an incentive to enter, every participant who sets a record will receive a certificate and a copy of “Los Altos World Records.”
“The best records are ordinary and easy,” Šedá noted. “This is the paradox.”
Šedá has received approximately 40 entries so far, including Martin Alter’s submission for the “Largest Collection of Rubber Ducks” at 300 and Laura Brewer’s claim to “Fastest Stenographer Using a Steno Machine” at 290-300 words per minute.
Although some records are so unique that they’re unlikely to be surpassed, entries like “House with the Most Evergreen Trees Out Front” at seven, “Largest Conference Table” at 14 feet long and “Most Friends on Facebook” at 869 might draw a challenge.
At its core, though, the friendly competition isn’t about numbers at all.
“I want to connect people through ordinary stuff,” Šedá said. “It’s not really about success as much as it’s about thinking creatively about our own lives.”
To ensure her project’s success, Šedá is counting on participation from local residents, which is more difficult than she expected.
When visitors arrive in the back room of 359 State St., where Šedá’s installation is set up, they will find a desk with a computer and an assortment of accessories – a nondescript setup. So normal, in fact, that some guests have expressed initial confusion. Visitors have wondered why the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art would rent gallery space to another business, while others ask Šedá where her completed project is.
“They don’t understand that this is art,” said Šedá of how her project challenges the mainstream idea that art is something that is finished and sits passively on a gallery wall.
Once guests grasp the concept behind the project, Šedá noted, they’re receptive to her modern art.
She said she still finds coaxing residents to submit records challenging, in part because “they’re afraid their records aren’t special enough.”
Šedá is dispelling the perception by taking to the streets, going door-to-door with project flyers and talking with residents about submitting a record. She would also like to add more children’s entries to the project and is reaching out to school administrators.
Completed submission forms along with documentation of the record (a photo, business card, certificate, etc.) can be dropped off at the 359 State St. submission office 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays; mailed to “Los Altos World Records,” 359 State St., Los Altos 94022; or submitted online at everythingisperfect.org. There’s no limit to the number of entries an individual can submit. For inspiration, view a sampling of photos illustrating current entries in the installation space or in the “Submitted Records Gallery” on the project’s website.
By connecting people who may never cross paths, Šedá is confident that her project will achieve its mission of helping the local community redefine “success.”
“Success is something that divides people, and I’m trying to create a different picture.”
For more information, visit everythingisperfect.org.