January 17, 2010

Artist Jill Magid's "Authority to Remove" Is Removed by Dutch Authorities

Magid specializes in exploring issues of surveillance, privacy, secrecy, and what's inside vs. outside.

E.g., for Evidence Locker (multimedia installation with video, "Reading Room," and other components, ca. 2007), she staged performances in front of London surveillance cameras. She then "submit[ed] 31 Subject Access Request Forms – the legal document necessary to outline to the police details of how and when an 'incident' occurred" – and used the resulting footage to create the video component of the installation.

When a recent exhibition of Magid's latest project, called "Authority to Remove," closed at Tate Modern, Dutch authorities removed and sealed much of the work included in the show – work the Dutch Secret Service had originally commissioned – thus consummating the work.

Dutch law requires that a small portion of the construction budgets for public buildings be devoted to commissioning new art. The Dutch Secret Service had commissioned Magid to make some, and had cooperated with her proposal to interview agents about their personal lives.

In the course of her commission, she produced her "first novel," a book based on her interviews of 18 agents. Although she masked their identities by calling all the men "Vincent" and all the women "Miranda," "[t]he agency found her work quite challenging and dangerous . . . ." The agency ultimately agreed to allow the text to be exhibited just once, and only with some 40% of the text whited out; it also required Magid to agree that upon the show's closing, the book and her notes would be sealed and archived in the same manner as the notes of a retiring agent.

Magid is publishing the prologue and epilogue of her original text under the title, Becoming Tarden (click on the pic below for a more legible image), the entirety of which can be found online here.

In her epilogue, she quotes her agency "advisor":

How far can they go to erase your experience? . . . Besides conducting surgery on your brain, how can they succeed? You cannot be the same person after this assignment; it has profoundly affected you and altered your perception of the world. How can they remove that?

How far, indeed – here's hoping Magid has, unlike Lombardi, placed copies with a reliable friend.

From artdaily and The WSJ here and here; and see a nice slide show at The WSJ here.

Magid's site is here.; she's represented by Yvon Lambert.

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