57 Forms of Liberty
There might seem to be no better symbol for modern blight and benightedness than the empty manufacturing plants and abandoned factories strewn across the United States and the world. Indeed, while touring a locomotive workshop in Sekondi, an industrial and commercial center in Ghana, Ibrahim Mahama stumbled upon a smokestack, rusting through disuse. Thinking of Great Britain’s extensive use of railways to cut up and extract natural resources from the nation when it was under British reign between 1821 and 1957, the artist quite literally turned the concept onto its head.
For his High Line commissioned installation, 57 Forms of Liberty, Mahama inverted an industrial tank sourced from Wilmington, North Carolina, a former center of American shipbuilding production. The High Line, of course, was a rail line that sat rusted and decaying for years before its metamorphosis into an elevated urban oasis. Located at 16th Street and sprouting up amidst the Northern Spur Preserve, 57 Forms of Liberty—which will remain on view until March 2022—mirrors the Statue of Liberty to its south, with its extended arm upholding a torch. In Mahama’s work, the mouth of the tank, instead of spewing smoke or pollution, sprouts a tree.
Ibrahim Mahama, 57 Forms of Liberty, 2021 (rendering). Image courtesy the High Line.