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 examines the City Observatory’s status and designation as a ‘common good asset’ and has been 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 considers 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 seeks to understand the obligations, responsibilities, and restrictions around the use of common good items as opportunities for public agency.
A research resource will be presented in Collective’s City Observatory Library, with an online presentation also launching in August. 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.
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).