MYSTERIOUS symbols are set to appear in a town, leading residents and visitors into new ways of perceiving the world.

But this is nothing to do with the return of TV's the X-files. Instead the contemporary artists behind the project in Markinch are aiming to tackle traffic problems while surprising and engaging people with abstract public art.

The ABC Routes scheme will take advantage of a traffic signage loophole to put 26 'glyphs' on 20mph speed restriction signs, each repeated to map out a new route through the town.

Old routes will be removed and new ones installed on a rolling basis until all 26 have appeared over the next seven months.

The aims of the initiative, which has the backing of all four of Markinch's councillors, Police Scotland and the local primary school, include getting people out of their cars and persuading them to look at familiar places in unexpected ways.

The artworks are deliberately opaque, and will generally not connect obvious routes or destinations such as Markinch Primary school, the library or post office.

Neither will the routes be explained, although some are themed, taking people through commercial or residential areas, for instance. Instead, the public will be engaged using flyers and stunts such as performances in the street and night walks.

Glasgow contemporary art group Nadfly have been working with the town and consulting with the community ahead of the launch of the signage on February 18.

Artists do not normally get to design traffic signs and Nadfly's producer Caspar Wilson said the public art project was groundbreaking.

"We are exploiting a tiny loophole of potential, due to an exception in the law which says you can have additional signage underneath the sign in 20mph zones without additional permission."

"We want to subvert the practical idea of signage to lead people to something that is more experiential."

The symbols are being installed to coincide with and complement upgrading work on the local park, including the widening of paths, upgrading of lights and other facilities and the installation of a new toucan crossing.

Angela High, chairwoman of Markinch Community Council, has championed the project. She said: “This fantastic development will see major investment in the built environment of Markinch.

"The ABC Routes signage and events are a new and exciting way to inspire children to walk and cycle to school, and to encourage parents to be aware and drive safely.”

Nadfly Director Nicola Atkinson said trails would lead from unexpected places like the front of someone's house or past a skatepark rather than routes people were likely to know.

"It is about discovery, not a route between specific laces or a historic trail, but an imaginative way through the town," she said. "Everyone has their routes, but introducing other routes can lead to discovery even in familiar places. These routes won't be something to be discovered by car."

The geometrically patterned art panels are all colour-coded, and hand-made. They have already involved local schoolchildren who have coloured them in and learned that because each represents a different letter, they can use them as an alphabet, or code.

The project is funded jointly by healthy transport charity Sustrans and Fife District Council. The enthusiasm it has generated locally has created a buzz about the launch, Ms Atkinson said. If it goes well, the model could be easily replicated elsewhere, she added, even in rival local towns.

"We are excited about the art side. People are going to talk about it," she said. "Glenrothes is going to be talking about it."

SOURCE: Herald Scotland

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