This summer, Collective presents three new, distinct artist commissions across the City Observatory site and online.
Using the City Observatory site as a springboard, Collective’s programme considers the hidden histories and untold stories relating to our site and wider cultural history. Bringing together new work by Annette Krauss, Ruth Ewan, and Satellites participant Camara Taylor, our summer programme of solo exhibitions and related events reframes and questions complex figures, movements and systems whose legacies are woven into our collective cultural memory. All three projects have been developed with the artists, in some cases over a number of years, to explore how the legacies of the past can be reconsidered and re-presented to help us re-imagine the present and future.
Artist Annette Krauss is reflecting on Collective’s move to the City Observatory on Calton Hill, a site held in the ‘common good’.
In dialogue with a host of interlocutors, A Matter of Precedents explores understandings of the site's status and designation as a ‘common good asset’. This is a form of collective property, unique to Scotland comprising buildings, parks, structures, objects, and monuments gifted to the people of a specific area, in this case Edinburgh. Categorised as ‘common good’, these items are today managed by local councils and its partners for the good of the people. Annette was struck by the specificity and lack of visibility of the Scottish commons, instigating with Collective a process to explore the (imaginative) potential of the common good as a particular legal, historically philanthropic, and early capitalist anomaly.
In the face of the increasing pressures of commercialisation and privatisation of public space in our cities, A Matter of Precedents seeks to understand the obligations, responsibilities, and restrictions around the use of common good items as opportunities for public agency.
A research resource presented in Collective’s library from 1 June and launching online in August, offers a fledgling framework from which to examine a legacy of research on the common good in Scotland and imagine future uses for other items. So far, this centres on a map of Edinburgh's Common Good sites, based on the 2018/19 and 2020/21 Edinburgh City Council Common Good Registers; and interviews with those involved in Collective’s particular activation of the common good, and with artists and cultural thinkers who have encountered issues surrounding the common good in their own work and communities. These accounts demystify and make visible some of the legal mechanisms and institutional processes around publicly owned assets.
The artist will present two in-person walks to gather around and discuss other common good sites in the city. We will walk and talk along two routes in central Edinburgh taking in a variety of sites, objects and spaces held in the common good, exploring and imagining forms of custodianship, maintenance, and community use of these sites.
Walk 1: Wellheads, Water and the Commons
Wednesday 1 June, 5.30pm
> Find out more
Walk 2: On Disappearing and Reappearing Common Good Items
Thursday 2 June, 2.30pm
> Find out more
Alongside this specific focus on the common good, the project looks for an intersectional approach, considering the relevance of colonial, feminist, and educational histories in Edinburgh (un)learning from ongoing debates around colonial cultural heritage and philanthropic and often paternalising principles of educational Enlightenment projects. These convergences will be explored in the walks through the input of different stakeholders and with those participating.
Contributors: writer and researcher Emma Balkind, former Director of Collective Kate Gray, former Cultural Venues Manager at City of Edinburgh Council Frank Little, producer artist and researcher Simon Yuill. Produced by Frances Stacey with artist and research assistant Alison Scott.
Annette Krauss is an artist, educator, and writer. Her collaborative work is dedicated to practices of ‘unlearning’ and ‘commoning’, addressing questions of institutional responsibilities, feminism, and privilege in long-term participatory pratices such as Sites for Unlearning, Hidden Curriculum, Spaces of Commoning, Read-in; Read the Masks. Tradition is Not Given; and School of Temporalities. These practices reflect and build upon the potential of collaboration while aiming at disrupting taken for granted truths in imagining and living forms of collectivity.
A Matter of Precedent is funded by Art Fund and supported by Annette Krauss’ Postdoctoral Grant 495 from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, financed by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).