Annette Krauss, ‘A Matter of Precedents: Held in the Common Good’, design Benjamin Fallon/Romulus Studio, 2022.

Annette Krauss, ‘A Matter of Precedents: Held in the Common Good’, design Benjamin Fallon/Romulus Studio, 2022.

Annette Krauss 
A Matter of Precedents


1 Jun 2022 — 4 Sep 2022  


Collective, The Library

In summer 2022, Collective presented three new, distinct artist commissions across the City Observatory site and online.

Using the City Observatory site as a springboard, Collective’s programme considered 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 reframed and questioned complex figures, movements and systems whose legacies are woven into our collective cultural memory. All three projects were 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.

A Matter of Precedents

The exhibition A Matter of Precedents brought together many different artworks and texts to examine the City Observatory’s status and designation as a ‘common good asset’.

Artist, educator, and writer Annette Krauss has been working with Collective over several years on A Matter of Precedents, a research project exploring the ‘common good’. Annette’s collaborative work is dedicated to practices of ‘unlearning’ and ‘commoning’, addressing questions of institutional responsibilities, feminism, and privilege.

A Matter of Precedents examined the City Observatory’s status and designation as a ‘common good asset’ and was developed in dialogue with a number of people involved in Collective’s redevelopment of the site, alongside artists and cultural thinkers. The ‘common good’ is a form of collective property, unique to Scotland, comprising buildings, land, structures, and monuments gifted to the people of a specific area. Categorised as ‘common good’, these items are today managed by local councils and their partners for the good of the people.

Developing on Annette’s long-term research on the commons, A Matter of Precedents considered the specificity and lack of visibility of the Scottish commons, particularly in Edinburgh; and draws on Collective’s journey to the City Observatory as a way to study the (imaginative) potential of the ‘common good’ as a particular legal, historically philanthropic, early capitalist anomaly entangled with colonial histories.

In the face of the increasing pressures of commercialisation and privatisation of public space in our cities, A Matter of Precedents sought to understand the obligations, responsibilities, and restrictions around the use of common good items as opportunities for public agency.

A research resource was presented in Collective’s City Observatory Library, with an online presentation launching in 2023. Materials have been brought together to demystify and expose some of the legal mechanisms and institutional processes around publicly owned items.

The resource includes a map of the common good sites in Edinburgh, 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, alongside artists and cultural thinkers who have encountered issues surrounding the common good in their own communities and work.

Walking Tours

The artist presented two in-person walks to gather around and discuss other common good sites in the city. We walked and talked 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 takes an intersectional approach, considering the relevance of colonial, feminist, and educational histories in Edinburgh. It seeks to (un)learn from ongoing debates around colonial cultural heritage and the philanthropic principles of educational Enlightenment projects. These convergences will be explored in the walks through the input of different stakeholders and with those participating.

Contributors: artist, educator, and writer Annette Krauss; writer and researcher Emma Balkind; sound design Luke Collins; sound recording for walks Dougie Fairgrieve and Jonathon McLoone; design Benjamin Fallon/ Romulus Studio; former Director of Collective Kate Gray; former Museums Manager at City of Edinburgh Council Frank Little; artist Eva Weinmayr; 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 and long-term participatory practices include 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 Precedents 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).