Spectres of liberty:
the ghost of the liberty street church
Spectres of Liberty is a project by Dara Greenwald, Josh MacPhee, and Olivia Robinson.
Spectres of Liberty is a public memory, site-specific art project. Beginning with a sense of loss about the changing built environment of Troy, New York, we set out imagining ghosts of demolished buildings and structures. Through imagining inflatable sculptural extensions to buildings whose facades have been destroyed to thinking about recreating vanished historic sites, we decided on creating a ghost of the Liberty Street Church. The Liberty Street Church is not only significant as a vanished part of Troy's architectural history, but also for its value as a historic site in the fight to abolish slavery. From old photos of the site provided by the Rensselaer Historical Society, we created an inflatable 1:1 scale reproduction of the church and will install it at the former site of the church, which is now a parking lot. We animated this ghost church through video projections that call forth the history of the site, as well as through the social context of a cultural event that will bring community members to the site to think more deeply about the space and its history. Through our research we learned more about Henry Highland Garnet, the pastor of Liberty Street Church from 1843-1848. He was known around the world for his militant orations and publications calling on people to actively participate in the fight to end slavery. When we read Henry Highland Garnet's words from the 1840's: "Let your motto be resistance! resistance! resistance! No oppressed people have ever secured their liberty without resistance," we do not think they are dead words from a forgotten time - but a call, an urging, to participate in transforming our world now.