An open letter to Edinburgh Council from Clet Abraham

One of Clet's pieces in Edinburgh. Credit: Phill Gillespie

One of Clet’s pieces in Edinburgh.
Credit: Phill Gillespie

We recently published an article highlighting Clet Abraham’s art work that has popped up in the last few months around Edinburgh.

We asked the Edinburgh public to submit photos of the signs that they had spotted.  Within two days and confirmation from the artist himself, we had found all 29 signs and 21 designs of Clet’s artwork.

It has been published in the press that the Council has publicly stated that these signs are illegal and that the Council are looking to ‘preserve his work’.

We are urging Edinburgh Council to leave them in situ for all to enjoy as many other cities such as Paris, Tilburg and Granada have done.

Clet got in touch with us with this open letter to Edinburgh Council explaining his art work. He would love his work to remain on the streets of Scotland’s capital.


Dear Edinburgh Council

Official surveys on road safety demonstrate that road-traffic accidents are mainly caused by lack of attention. A number of rules and laws allegedly regulate traffic issues, but unfortunately they seem not to be enough for solving the practical issue of the due concentration and attention to the road.

Automatic activities are most likely to prevent people from paying attention
to the route and acting responsibly, it is therefore important to understand that an overabundance of the same road signs repeated over and over becomes itself an automatism. Everyday contact with road signs has become mechanic and commonplace in a way that also the message conveyed has become less efficient.

Briefly, the problem concerns the communication of messages that, with the
passing of time, fail to reach their receivers. On the contrary, my work on road
signs recalls the drivers’ attention by evoking their sympathy rather than scarce
attention or even rejection.

Certainly, my first concern when adding my creations to the original road
signs is not to alter the original meaning of their message: my modifications are
always a small part of the overall image, and, in case of emergency, since our eyes are able to make a selection, they tend to disappear from sight.

Plus, I have no interest in eliminating the original message of the road signs
with my creations: my work mostly consisting in referring ironically to their
uncompromising and authoritarian nature, without them it wouldn’t make any
sense. What matters is the way this work is carried out. I always impose myself to be constructive and positive, and what I do is adding new meaning, poetry, humor, at least I try to. I am always seeking dialogue, I never hide, because if it’s true that vandalism destroys, it is also true that art creates.

Therefore, I would love to enrich a social debate about finding a fair balance
between imposition and freedom, because an excess of rules discourages the sense of citizens’ responsibility and this consequently engenders the need of new rules and creates a never ending vicious circle.

With the addition of poetic or philosophical elements on an original subject
that is as totally uncompromising as traffic regulations, I would like to give a
concrete example of a possible reconciliation between two extremes that are
usually in tension: authority and freedom. I would like to demonstrate the need of finding a compromise: law will always need more humanity in order to be better respected, in the same way that road signs become desirable because they contain humor and meaning.

Let’s think of children: they immediately perceive the playful and human
feature of my work, they look for my creations all over the city, finally paying
attention to the very existence of traffic signs. So, communication succeeds and traffic safety progresses.


Cities in which Clet’s work is embraced.

⁃ Evry, 91000, France (February 2014)
⁃ Paris, France (5 June, 2014)
⁃ Calenzano, 50041 Firenze, Italy (20 June 2014)
⁃ Collescipoli, 05100 Terni, Italy (June 2014)
⁃ Dicomano, 50062 Firenze, Italy (31 January 2015)
⁃ Parigi, France (February 2015)
⁃ Sète, 34200 Montpellier, France (June 2015)
⁃ Cecina, 56021 Pisa, Italy (September 2015)
⁃ Brest, France 29200 (June 2016)
⁃ Pont-Coix, 29790 Quimper, France (August 2016)
⁃ Mulhouse, France 68100 (September 2016)
– Granada, Spain 18001-18015 (Giugno 2018)
– Tilburg, Holland 5000-5049 (August 2018)


You can see a gallery of Clet’s work in Edinburgh courtesy of Phill Gillespie. There are 29 signs, with 21 designs.

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