And so, after much beavering away behind the scenes, the Edinburgh Art Festival is upon us. From artistic blockbusters to platforms for young Scottish artists, the EAF engages with an imaginative series of events, which this year includes breakfast talks alongside the usual Art Earlies – for families – and Art Lates, mixing music and art.

The heart of the festival, perhaps, is the Commissions programme. This year, it is themed around “Stories for an Uncertain World,” although it was originally pencilled in as “Stories for a new world”. “Isn't it funny,” says EAF Director Sorcha Carey, with the sort of mad laugh that suggests that, as for many of us, it really isn't funny at all, “I think we all thought we would be in a different place to the one we were in this time last year. The craziness of contemporary politics!” Carey tells me she remembers reading a commentator who called our current situation a “limbocracy” and felt it “the perfect phrase to inhabit where we are.”

But Carey is wedded to the idea of using stories to make sense of our world. She has gathered together five artists – Nathan Coley, Alfredo Jaar, Rosalind Nashashibi, Sriwhana Spong, Corin Sworn – whose work complements the theme, their work engaging with the city fabric or nestled into its most historic places.

Turner Prize nominee (2017) Rosalind Nashashibi has been working on her film project for a few years, inspired by the Ursula K. Le Guin novel, “The Shobie's Story”, in which a disparate group of people about to travel to a new planet by a new form of space travel come together to create a new community at a time of uncertainty, Nashashibi's film follows a group of her family and friends on a similar trajectory. Nashashibi filmed part of the work in the Emil Nolde exhibition which some may remember was shown at the National Galleries this time last year. The paintings, both Nolde's expressionist, colourist works and her own, are a key structuring element in the film, mixed in with remote landscapes in Lithuania and opening scenes in Edinburgh, taking the viewer to a new place.

“She mixes elements that are very fictional and partly staged with things that are partly documentary. You never quite know where you are.”

Nathan Coley's new work, which will be installed on the walls of Parliament Hall – now the seat of the Supreme Court - whilst lawyers go about their business on the floor below, is something of a departure from his previous light box works, such as “There Will Be No Miracles Here” in the grounds of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. A few years ago, the artist saw a diplomatic address from the White House and became fascinated by its early 19th century landscaped wallpaper. He subsequently discovered that they were by Zuber & Cie, installed by Jacqueline Kennedy in 1960, rescued from a historic house that was being demolished in another state.

“They were called Views of North America, but they were made by a French artist who might not have visited America. An imagined America through a European eye. Nathan was intrigued by the sense that America was embracing that European image of itself and putting it on the walls of its most important residence. So he acquired a set of the wallpapers and has pasted them over his five lightboxes,” says Carey.

Corin Sworn's new video and sculpture work investigates anatomy and the way technology is changing the way individuals relate to the world, “Habits of Assembly” will be installed in the recently reopened Sculpture Court at Edinburgh College of Art. And Sriwhana Spong takes art into the Institut Francais d'Ecosse, as well as down to the Water of Leith, where she will install ceramic sculptures in St. Bernard's Well. Responding to a text by the 16th century mystic, St. Theresa of Avila and inspired by the Balinese Gamelan, she has created a new glass instrument to reflect Theresa's idea of the interior architecture of the mind.

Alfredo Jaar mounts the last words of Beckett's novel, “The Unnamable” on the bridge between the Royal Museum and the University's Old College on Chambers Street. “I can't go on, I'll go on” seems to say something about the uncertainty of our modern world that also marries with the absurdity of every street in Edinburgh becoming a stage in August. “He liked the playfulness of it,” says Carey.

If none of these works will necessarily provide an answer to the existential and political crises enveloping our many nations – or solve Brexit – they may provide a much needed sense of recognition to steel us all to, as Beckett put it, “go on”.

Edinburgh Art Festival, Various Venues. EAF Kiosk, Institut Francais d'Ecosse, West Parliament Square, Edinburgh, 0131 226 6558, 25 Jul – 25 Aug

Don't miss

There is a long and venerable – if controversial – history of erasure in art. From Renaissance masters rubbing at oils to remove and reapply, to art restorers scraping away “superfluous” layers of paint, artists have long experimented with taking something away to produce something new. Artist Audrey Grant uses erasure as a key part of her process in working towards a portrait, as shown in this fascinating exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery studying the journey rowards portraits of Norman McBeath (who photographed her process as it happened) and Val McDermid.

The Long Look, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, 0131 624 6200,, Until 27 Oct, Daily, 10am – 5pm, Admission Free

Critic's Choice

There's always something interesting going on in Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. Locals walking past can often hear the sound of chisel on stone tapping out from the courtyard, and the sound-proof studios are busy year-round. But in the summer, it is exhibition time, and this year there are three new installations created as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival, including a sound installation in the landmark beacon tower.

Adam Benmaklouf has created the installation for the tower – visually, a cross between a campanile and a conning tower - inspired by his work for ESW with local primary schools over the past two years. Elsewhere, on the walk/bike path on which the workshop is directly situated and accessible 24 hours a day, Lucy Wayman, who at her graduate degree show at Edinburgh in 2016 showed that the domestic mop could attain monumentality, undertakes her first outdoor commission for a large scale sculpture. The work will hang from the Newhaven Road bridge, and be made from marine rope – ropemaking being a key industry in Leith for hundreds of years.

And finally, in the central courtyard of ESW itself, Caroline Achaintre will make a new site-specific sculpture from metal and ceramic, an extension of her drawings of “multipersonalities”. Just a short (and lovely) cycle ride from the city centre, the preview is on Friday 26th, 7-9pm – all are welcome.

Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Bill Scott Sculpture Centre, 21 Hawthornvale, Edinburgh, 0131 551 4490, 25 Jul – 25 Aug (Wayman until May 2020) Wed – Sun, 11am – 5pm