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Openness Requires Choice

Olivia Robinson, Dara Greenwald, & Josh MacPhee


Opennes Requires Choice is one of two dozen prints that came out Spectres of Liberty's Open City Workshop.

Spectres of Liberty was an art collective comprised of Dara Greenwald, Josh MacPhee, and Olivia Robinson. These prints are the product of one of our 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 “Great Central Depot" because its residents, and those of the surrounding region, helped thousands of individuals escape slavery. 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. Spectres' Open City Workshop project created a space in which to discuss what this idea might mean in today's city.

The Open City Workshop, 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. 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. Hung side-by-side in the Open City Workshop, the printed phrases created interesting, overlapping reverberations across both time and communities: the anti-slavery quotes resonating with contemporary queer struggles, and immigrant rights organizers speaking phrases that feel like they are straight out of resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act.

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 (this particular batch of paper all is a faded light green in tone and color). Additional partners for this project included the Community Folk Art Center, The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, and The Art School in the Art School, all located in Syracuse, New York.

A large collection of prints from the workshop were recently unearthed, and select editions have been pulled for sale here on Justseeds. As these are original woodtype relief prints made in the context of a public workshop, they can vary considerably in color and alignment. This also means that the printing gives considerable character to the type:


Choose from 7 unique colorways:

Variant 1


Variant 2


Variant 3


Variant 4


Variant 5


Variant 6


Variant 7

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