Liberty Cap, 2011
sitespecific work at Djerassi Artist Residency, CA
knitted red plastic rope, wire

An oversized knitted Phrygian hat is placed on a gate pole on the side of a trail at the Djerassi Property. It appears incidental as if someone lost it on the trail and another hiker put it up on the gate to be found again. From far the red color contrasts with the surrounding landscape, especially with blue sky.

The work is refering to the historical role of Phrygian caps as a sign of revolution and protest. Adapted from the French revolution as a symbol of liberty, it became popular during the American revolution to put up poles in public space that would carry a red Phrygian or liberty cap on top. This happened throughout the Americas in the late 18th century to signify a dissent against the British. Images of these liberty poles can be found on historical images, coins and flags (see images). Interesting contemporary adaptions of the Phrygian cap in popular culture are the garden gnome and papa smurf.

As the hat is also ressembling the jesters‘s hat it may also refer to the liberty of the fool as well as of the artist to speak out critical truths, and through the position at the gate as a „trickster“ – in the sense of Lewis Hyde, a boundary-crosser.
Beate Engl