Static is a digital projection on a seven-minute loop that was shot on 35mm film and transferred to video. The piece has sound and was produced in an edition of four plus one artist’s proof. Tate’s copy is number four in the edition. In the film, the camera ceaselessly circles around the Statue of Liberty in New York, alternating between distance shots that show the monument looming over docks and buildings, and compelling close-ups that seem to capture every detail, from the torch held aloft, to an arm clutching the tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law), to the statue’s serene unfocussed glance. The film was shot from a helicopter, whose relentless whirr fades in and out on the sound track, adding a sense of discontinuity that is reinforced by the contrasting speeds at which foreground and background move in front of the viewer.
The title of the film suggests a fixed perspective and a lack of movement and development, in contrast to the perpetual movement of the camera. Circling around the static monument, the different sections of the New York and New Jersey skyline are described by a continually changing perspective. This relentless circular motion around the monument and the proximity of the statue present an alternative view of the landmark, an icon of freedom whose legend reads ‘The Statue of Liberty: Liberty Enlightening the World’. Through its close scrutiny, Static calls into question the monument’s ability to maintain these values unscathed. The film was made in 2009, the same year that President Barack Obama’s Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced that as a ‘special gift’ to America, the statue would reopen to the public from 4 July (American Independence day), having been closed following the attacks of 11 September 2001.
Static is projected floor to ceiling across one wall in a black room. It was first exhibited at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York in 2010.
Steve McQueen: Speaking in Tongues, exhibition catalogue, Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, Paris 2003.
Patricia Bickers, ‘Let’s Get Physical’ (interview with Steve McQueen), Art Monthly, no.202, December 1996–January 1997, pp.1–5.