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“This is something to get angry about:” Edinburgh artist creates commemorative work of protest representing each death from Covid-19

Andrew Brooks' piece, Toll illustrates the scale of the loss of life in the UK during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Andrew Brooks' piece, Toll illustrates the scale of the loss of life in the UK during the Coronavirus pandemic.

An Edinburgh artist has created a new work to protest and commemorate the first year’s reported deaths as a result of Covid-19.

Andrew Brooks’ artwork, Toll, makes a single mark for each of the the 145,652 deaths in the UK tragically recorded in one year of the pandemic.

Brooks began the project online on March 13 this year, with 52 marking performances taking place at Edinburgh’s Concrete Block Gallery, with each performance representing a single week’s statistics of deaths.

He said: “When you think about the statistics it easily gets abstracted away but I’m doing this to make it physical and make it so that it can’t be avoided.

“It’s a visualization that really makes you understand what’s happened, over a hundred and forty-five thousand deaths, you have to realise that this is something to get angry about.

“The impetus for this was anger and that’s what’s fed it. It’s anger at Westminster and at central government.

“I’ve felt that they haven’t been decisive, they haven’t made strong decisions, there has been a lot of waste, that has resulted in over a hundred thousand deaths.

“This is a protest piece, this is my version of holding up a placard and standing out in the street – this is my concerted silent protest.”

Each mark is made with a single brush dab and is 4cm high and made on rolls of paper 1.5m wide and 10m long.

The marks fill 53 metres of paper and have used over a litre of black ink.

“The act of remembrance is very important in the way that I have gone about constructing this, attempting to recognise each one of those deaths,” continued Brooks.

Each mark represents the loss of one life to Covid-19 in the UK.

“Understanding what one hundred and forty-five thousand marks looks like and how much time it takes to make those.

“I try and be as considered as possible when I make a mark because that is somebody – that is somebody’s family member, somebody’s friend and it’s somebody’s life that’s ended.”

Each week’s statistics is filmed separately, and the longest film is three hours and six minutes, representing the sixth week of Covid-related deaths in the UK which was the highest toll for the year at 9,510.

“There are two elements to the artwork: the physical piece with the marks made on the paper and also the performance of me in the space making the work – I do it in silence and on my own,” said Brooks.

“The performance of this is very much the work part of the work and is just as important as the paper.”

After seeing Brook’s project on Instagram, documentary film maker, Dave MacFarlane of DMtwo Media, approached him to document the process of making the work.

“This recent filming project is one of those that come along and you can’t help but take notice,” he said.

“The subject matter, the artistic concept and the wider social impact were all key factors in wanting to produce this short documentary.”


Toll will be exhibited for viewings at Concrete Block Gallery, Edinburgh, Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 May between 11am and 5pm.  Viewings can be booked  here.