The Persistence of Liberty (2016)
Marble slabs, each engraved with text from a flawed Google Voice transcription of a different voicemail recording of the Fourth Amendment
The Persistence of Liberty dramatizes tensions between constitutional rights, often idealized and thought of as immutable, and the churn of changing technology and ever-evolving social circumstances. To produce the work, the artist left a series of voicemail messages, each containing a verbatim recitation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees American citizens against procedurally unjust search and seizure by the federal government. These recordings were then processed by the popular Google Voice transcription service, which used voice recognition technology to turn the voicemails back into text. The resulting transcriptions, however, were imperfect, the text of the Fourth Amendment having been altered in unpredictable ways by this confrontation with a novel technology. By turns absurd, sinister, or merely garbled, these mistaken, ephemeral texts were then engraved in marble, a material connoting permanence that is characteristic of American historical monuments. The process generating the text, and the final choice of material, highlight the path dependence of history, but the overall meaning of the work is elusive: it can be read either as a sly critique of the idea of immutable rights in the first place, or as a dire warning that temporary carelessness with citizens' rights may have long-lasting consequences.