Spectres of Liberty

Date: 

May 1 2008

Location: 

Troy NY, Syracuse NY

Spectres of Liberty is an on-going public, hybrid media project about
the history of the movement to abolish slavery in the United States.
Through this project we explore the following questions: How do we make
visible histories of people and movements which resisted a status quo of
oppression? What are the best forms to manifest submerged and complex
collective memories? How do artists interact with a public in meaningful
ways to animate the history of specific locations?

The first iteration of this project took place in May 2008 and was
entitled The Ghost of the Liberty Street Church. Built in 1840 in Troy,
New York, the Liberty Street Church was an important meeting place for
organizers of the Underground Railroad. The Church’s first Reverend,
Henry Highland Garnet, was internationally known for his militant
orations and publications calling on people to actively participate in
the fight to end slavery. From old photos of the site provided by the
Rensselaer Historical Society, we created an inflatable 1:1 scale model
of the church and installed it at its former location, which is
currently a parking lot. We animated this ghost church through video
projections, sound, and digital animations representing Henry Highland
Garnet and his words. The church provided a theatre in which to hold a
cultural event that brought community members to think more deeply about
the space, its history, and its relevancy for today.
The second iteration of Spectres of Liberty was in Syracuse, New
York. It is titled The Great Central Depot in the Open City, based on
Syracuse's reputation as an important stop on the Underground Railroad.
UGRR Station Master Reverend Jermain Loguen called Syracuse an "Open
City", a safe place for those escaping slavery. Created in May-June
2010, this multi-phased creative endeavor asked the question: Is
Syracuse an Open City today? Through research and collaboration, we
developed a project that highlighted Syracuse's anti-slavery history and
its contemporary issues.  The project took the form of a month-long
storefront Open City Workshop with public programs, a public cultural
event with a large-scale media installation, and an on-line radio
station.

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