Liberty: A Dozen or So Views

1976, 11:30 min, b&w, sound

"The title of this early video has a double meaning. Taken literally, it describes the iconic Statue of Liberty, seen from multiple vantages aboard the Staten Island Ferry. As the ship crosses New York Harbor, Dara Birnbaum interviews a dozen or so of her fellow passengers, asking them a series of classificatory questions about their weight, height, eye color, and race. These questions liken the interviews to the registration of immigrants arriving through the Port of New York at Ellis Island; the range of interviewees reflects the diversity of New York City and America overall.

The title Liberty: A Dozen or So Views might also suggest that Birnbaum's questioning would gather different opinions about liberty, but this is not among the questions asked. Instead, she had each interviewee use her camera to record his or her own vantage on the Statue of Liberty, contrasting the materiaity of each person's physcial being with that of the statue rising from the waters and relating physcial views to conceptual ones." (RC)

— Text reprinted with permission from Dara Birnbaum: The Dark Matter of Media Light. Karen J.Kelly, Barbara Schröder, and Giel Vandecaveye. Ghent/Porto/Munich: Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst/Museu Serralves/Del Monico Books-Prestel, 2011. p. 176.