Site specific installation that was temporarily installed in the old town in Edinburgh, Scotland at a location on Advocate's Close



‘Graffiti artists understand the power of words, particularly the power of words discovered in unexpected places’ (Rothstein 2017:46)


A developing pattern in recent work saw the building of a relationship between form, site and signs. With the incorporation of text to interrogate and qualify the meaning that a sign can generate, an initial idea stemmed from this enquiry and was used as a starting point:

“Sculptural figures, almost formless and semi-abstract with their mouths covered, lying on floor. Expression is not possible.” (Rutherford: journal notes)

Building upon the ‘Expressionless Expression’ concept led me to think about masks and the way a face is covered to conceal true expression. I used a particularly strange bird like mask of the medieval Plague Doctor as a metaphor to explore many things.


Using an ethnographic research approach revealed that the Plague was the first international pandemic and was an air of bad spirit borne travelling in the ether. It had an intangible feel and was viewed as ‘bad air’. Not caring for borders or walls, it travelled from person to person and country to country. The use of text around the image builds a narrative and the image of the character functions as a metaphor. Through the construction of a neon looking sign, there is an attempt to convey substantial amounts of information through a minimal object that both addresses aesthetic concerns, and also as Foster says, question “its own logic”:

“Could it be that in our society of the spectacle art has begun to interiorise itsown logic, to be based not simply on exchange value but on sign exchange value?” (Foster: 1985, p92)

The installation of the work as site specific made the sign become more real and affects its meaning. The sculpture was temporarily installed in the old town in Edinburgh, Scotland at a location on Advocate's Close, which survives in the condition that it was back in 1645. The site is now a tourist attraction and placing the sign here allowed for consideration of context and site; with people encountering and engaging with it and finally commenting on the Disneyfication of a historical site.

* Rothstein, S (2017) ‘in Forgotten Places – Lakovos Volkov’ In: Sculpture Vol 36, No2 p46


Video Documentation: 

Plague Doctor from Alan R on Vimeo.

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