HD video, 7min39sec, 2021
rehearsed by Nima Séne;
narrated by Shola von Reinhold;
figured by Sulaïman Majali;
and sound by: 皚桐

holus-bolus, is inspired by the tellings and re-tellings of the life and death of William Davidson (1781 – 1820). Conspirator, radical or wrongfully convicted, Davidson was the son of a Scotsman, the Attorney General of Jamaica, and a black woman. He studied mathematics at Aberdeen University and later became a cabinet maker. In 1820, Davidson delivered an ‘eloquent and unsuccessful’ speech to court during the trial for his alleged involvement in the Cato Street Conspiracy (a radical plot to assassinate cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister). Throughout the trial, Davidson maintained his innocence, claiming he’d been mistaken for another man of colour in the area at the time.  

Slippery and frantic, Taylor works with and against court transcripts, rumour, anecdote and regency era records and ephemera; questioning what these can tell us about Black presence – or even a single figure.  Instead of creating a vehicle for historic accuracy, holus-bolus confronts us with a dilemma also faced by the artist who says, “I’m not sure if I’m trying to capture the feeling of the event or my feelings in the retelling.”

Words by Tako Taal
Commissioned as part of What happens to desire... cur. Tako Taal as part of
Edinburgh Art Festival 2021.
Supported by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund and EventScotland. Our Commissions Programme is kindly supported by the Patrons of our Commissioning Circle.


witness, digital collages 2018-19

“ I hope you will never be persuaded, or suffer the public to be led away with a belief, that I am fallen from that spirit maintained from my youth up, and had so long been in possession of the ancient name of Davidson (Aberdeen’s boast), and is now become fables. Death’s countenance is familiar to me. I have had him in view fifteen times, and surely he cannot now be terrible.

William Davidson in a letter to his wife Sarah.