Real Life and How to Live it in Auld Reekie at Edinburgh Art Festival 2013

Real Life

Real Life and How to Live it in Auld Reekie >

Research Themes:
Contemporary Art & Curating

Research Staff:
Ross Sinclair

Real Life and How to Live it in Auld Reekie was an ambitious commission for Edinburgh Art Festival 2013, comprising almost 45,000 different pieces distributed and exhibited around the city of Edinburgh.

In this project, Ross Sinclair invited the public of Edinburgh to consider ideas of the (sometimes conflicting) identities of the city – cultural, social, sporting, historical, political, criminal, educational. Featuring a wide variety of forms and locations, Sinclair viewed this project as an opportunity for at least 45000 individual encounters with art, a chance for dialogue with a wide cross-section of the citizens and visitors to the city during the festival. The aim was to engage the public of the city in as many different locations as possible, often in situations where there would be no assumption of an 'Art' experience.

The pieces included 3 Billboards, 20,000 beermats, 20,000 postcards, 500 posters, 500 records, 2000 badges, 15 metal signs, one banner, 2000 booklets, and 500 tote bags in various locations. In using a wide array of ‘empirical’ knowledge to compile various ‘top ten..’ lists,  Sinclair wanted to provoke a discussion with the people of Edinburgh, engaging their sense of identity and the construction of the identity of the city. The Real Life signs were specifically located to engage with the unique context of the building/place, self-consciously mimicking the ‘blue plaques’ in London. ‘ Writers’ for example was sited in the Oxford Bar – the local of both Ian Rankin and his fictional detective John Rebus. ‘Referendum ‘79’, was on the site of the old Royal High School, which was to be the location of the new devolved Scottish Government, had the referendum voted yes.

The project was one of the most widely disseminated in 25 years of practice, generating significant discussion and seen by an extremely diverse audience. As many of the works were flexible and moveable (posters/postcards/beermats) they continue to have a life after the event.

Real Life and How to Live it in Auld Reekie ran from 1 August – 1 September 2013 in locations across Edinburgh. Real Life Parledonia was a related symposium event curated by Ross Sinclair for Edinburgh Arts Festival, featuring 12 artists/writers/performers and hosted by Edinburgh College of Art. 

Project papers on RADAR:

Ross Sinclair : We love Real Life Scotland Art, History and Place, A Reader exploring the heritage of Huntly’s Gordons and other Scottish Incidences in the work of Ross Sinclair - various, 2012

Real Life and How to Live it in Auld Reekie / Real Life Parledonia - Ross Sinclair, 2013

Real Life.. at the Edinburgh Art Festival

Real Life.. at the Edinburgh Art Festival |

See the project on the EAF website

Ross Sinclair RADAR

"I Tried to Give Up Drinking with Guitars Instead of God"

"I Tried to Give Up Drinking with Guitars Instead of God"...

06/04/17 8:21

Making Your Mark - A Scottish Printmaking Heritage Outreach Project

Making Your Mark - A Scottish Printmaking Heritage Outrea...

04/04/17 10:28