Negative Liberty / Positive Liberty

Negative Liberty / Positive Liberty

The Performance Arcade

Wellington, New Zealand

February 22 - 26, 2023

The Negative Liberty / Positive Liberty experience is one person at a time, and lasts approximately 8 minutes.


Conceived, Written & Directed by Christopher McElroen

In collaboration with

Performers Sarah Ellen Stephens and Olivia Gilliatt
Scenographer Troy Hourie
Video Designer Adam J Thompson
Sound Designer Andy Evan Cohen
Lighting Designer Lucrecia Briceno
Production Manager Neal Wilkinson
Lighting Associate Michael Cunningham

Installation build by Silovsky Studios

Special Thanks: Thomas D Klingenstein, David Thomson, Andrea Wiethorn & The Flea Theater, Austin Switser, Jenny Tibbels and Lucien Zayan & Arly Maulana at The Invisible Dog.

Negative Liberty/ Positive Liberty premiered in the US in March 2021 at the Invisible Dog Arts Center in Brooklyn.

Negative Liberty / Positive Liberty is an artistic distillation of Berlin’s lecture, in which he points out that when concepts of liberty are used rhetorically to control and repress individuals in the name of liberty itself, it will eventually, and inevitably, lead to violent conflict.

In addition to Berlin’s lecture, Negative Liberty/Positive Liberty is informed in part by Anthony Barboza’s 1966 photograph, Pensacola, FL. In the photograph is an image of a broken neon sign which once read “LIBERTY.” The E is clearly broken and the R is hanging at an angle. But what if the sign isn’t broken. What if it was never completed. 

Inspired by the January 6 United States Capitol attack and recent riots around the globe - events that were fueled by artificial rhetoric that eventually, and inevitably, become participatory, real and violent - a single viewer is offered an experience. In less than ten-minutes, it is delivered to them in artificial fashion. What follows is an invitation to participate; to lend the actual to the artificial, thus making the experience real and complete. All of this is done in the name of exercising one’s Liberty…but whose?