22 × 15 × 1 in
4 in stock
Spectres of Liberty was an art collective comprised of Dara Creenwald, Josh MacPhee, and Olivia Robinson. These prints are the product of one of their projects, the Open City Workshop, a multimedia educational space created within a storefront in downtown Syracuse, New York between May 18th and June 5th, 2010.
Inspired by Syracuse’s abolitionist history, specifically the words of the Syracuse-based, 19th century abolitionist Reverend Jermain Loguen, Spectres of Liberty ran a series of events, workshops, and discussions focused around Loguen’s idea of Syracuse being an “open city.” In the mid-19th century, Syracuse was central to the anti-slavery movement in the United States and was nicknamed the “Great Central Depot” because its residents, and those of the surrounding region, helped thousands of individuals escape slavery. Rev. Jermaine Loguen called Syracuse an “open city” because he and fellow abolitionists openly provided sanctuary to freedom-seekers, even though to do so was against federal law. Rev. Jermaine Loguen was a powerful writer and orator about abolition and was contemporaries with Frederick Douglas. He opened schools for students in the Black community in Upstate New York, including Utica and Syracuse. He was a minister in Bath, Ithaca and Troy, NY. Rev. Loguen was also involved in what is widely known as the Jerry Rescue, in which a large group of abolitionists worked together to free William Henry, who was detained under the Fugitive Slave Act.
Spectres of Liberty Open City Workshop project created a space in which to discuss what this idea might mean in today’s cities. This was held in a downtown storefront, was open to the public for three weeks of discussions, workshops, and brainstorming with local community groups and social justice organizations. A key component of the Workshop was a tabletop letterpress proofing press and trays of wood-block type, harkening back to the 19th century. This was used to set type and print phrases from historic texts by Jermain Loguen as well as phrases spoken by panelists during the public discussions at the workshop in 2010, where discussions involving immigrant rights and queer resistance were taking place. The phrases from Rev. Loguen were displayed side-by-side with quotes regarding contemporary struggles in the Open City Workshop. Viewed side-by-side, it wasn’t clear which era the quotes were from, which created interesting and overlapping reverberations across both time and communities. The anti-slavery quotes resonated with contemporary struggles while panelists spoke phrases that felt like they are straight out of resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act.
The pieces in this box set are a staging ground for dynamic conversations with students of today, weaving a thread from this country’s dark history of oppression and abolitionist resistance, deftly connecting that to current struggles and resistance. To see oneself in these quotes is to connect and learn from resistance struggles within American history.
The Open City Workshop was created in collaboration with artist Joanna Spitzner. The letterpress was borrowed from the Syracuse University printmaking department. The paper used during the project was produced by the Syracuse University Paper and Bioprocess Engineering Department, which produces paper from tree to the finished page. Additional partners for this project included the Community Folk Art Center, The Matilda Joslyn Cage Home and the Art School in the Art School, all located in Syracuse, New York.
This portfolio includes 18 prints from the Open City Workshop, a colophon and a page of documentation of the workshop.