Nisha Rathode (Editor)

Jill Magid

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Nationality  American
Occupation  Artist and Writer

Name  Jill Magid
Books  Following Jill Magid
Jill Magid PreBrunch with Jill Magid Woman With Sombrero Gertrude

Education  Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Embedded jill magid

Jill Magid (born 1973) is an American conceptual artist and writer. In Magid's work, she forms intimate relationships with systems of power, including police, secret service, CCTV and forensics, subverting these through seduction and embedding herself within them. Countering the wide-angle, depersonalizing operations of such entities, Magid seeks – in her own words – "the potential softness and intimacy of their technologies, the fallacy of their omniscient point of view, the ways in which they hold memory (yet often cease to remember), their engrained position in society (the cause of their invisibility), their authority, their apparent intangibility and, with all of this, their potential reversibility."


Jill Magid The Vera List Center for Arts and Politics Jill Magid

Jill magid faust 24 at galeria labor mexico city


Jill Magid Jill Magid

Jill Magid was born in Bridgeport, CT in 1973 and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Magid had received her Master of Science in Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. She currently lives and works in New York, where she serves as an adjunct professor at Cooper Union.

Jill Magid ARTPULSE MAGAZINE Reviews Jill Magid Authority to Remove

Magid was an artist-in-residence at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam from 2000-2. She has received various awards, including the Basis Stipendium from Fonds Voor Beeldende Kunsten in the Netherlands in 2006 and a Netherland-American Foundation Fellowship Fulbright Grant from 2001-2002. Magid was an Eyebeam resident in 2006.

Magid's work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at numerous institutions: Tate Modern, London; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Berkeley Museum of Art, California; Tate Liverpool; the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam; Gagosian Gallery, New York; Sparwasser, Berlin; The Centre D'Arte Santa Monica, Barcelona; and Stroom, Netherlands.

Magid is represented by RaebervonStenglin, Zürich, Yvon Lambert, Paris and LABOR, Mexico City. She is also the author of four books.

Evidence Locker

Evidence Locker emerged from Magid's 2004 collaboration with Liverpool's City Watch (Merseyside Police and Liverpool City Council) – then England's largest citywide video surveillance system. Navigating the city in a bright red trench coat for thirty-one days, the artist periodically contacted on-duty police to train their public cameras on her. Sometimes, the surveillants located her on their own.

City Watch stores CCTV footage for only thirty-one days "unless requested as evidence"; requested footage, in turn, is kept for seven years in a digital "Evidence Locker" on the organization's main computer. Despite her collaboration with the organization, Magid could only obtain access to her footage by formally submitting thirty-one Subject Access Request Forms, detailing the time and nature of the evidentiary incidents. Building upon her implicit intimacy with the CCTV observers, Magid filled out these legal documents as if writing letters to a lover. The collected letters form her 2004 book, One Cycle of Memory in the City of L.

After filing the forms, Magid received over eleven hours of CCTV recordings, constituting her own personal evidence locker. The artist edited this footage into a number of videos, including Final Tour (2004), which comprises a series of time-lapse sequences of the artist motorcycling through the city at sunset, backed by Georges Delerue's score from Le Mépris. In Trust (2004), a CCTV operator communicates with Magid via mobile phone, guiding the artist – eyes closed – through the city's public spaces.

As a whole, Evidence Locker contributes to contemporary debates around public surveillance by giving a nuanced, focused take on the "emotional and philosophical relationship between ‘protective' institutions […] and individual identity."

The Spy Project

In 2005, Magid was commissioned by the Dutch secret service (AIVD) to make a work for its new headquarters, as per the law's stipulation that "a portion of the budget for the new building be spent on an art commission." The organization solicited the artist to help improve its public persona by providing "‘the AIVD with a human face.'"

Magid spent the following three years meeting with eighteen willing employees in "non-descript public places," from restaurants and bars to airport meeting points. AIVD restricted the artist from using recording equipment, so she collected her contacts' personal data in handwritten notes, which informed her later series of neons, sculptures and paper works. Magid also drafted a report of her meetings, amassing the details of individual contacts into a collective persona that she referred to as "The Organization."

The first exhibition of the project, Article 12, opened at Stroom, The Netherlands in April 2008 – the same month AIVD took residence in its new headquarters. The show also marked the official end of the artist's commission. Named after the article that protects personal data, Article 12 never entirely disclosed the identities of Magid's contacts, but nonetheless inverted "the surveillance duties of the agency" by publicly displaying materials associated with its employees.

Magid invited AIVD personnel to review the exhibition a day before the opening; the agents returned, during its run, to confiscate several works. A draft of Magid's report, in turn, was delivered to the artist with redactions of "any information that might compromise her sources' identities," as well as "some of the artist's descriptions of her own thoughts and feelings."

The artist "protested against the censorship of her own memories," prompting AIVD to suggest that she "‘present the manuscript as a visual work of art in a one-time-only exhibition, after which it would become the property of the Dutch government and not be published.'" Magid's 2009/10 exhibition at Tate Modern, Authority to Remove, marked the fulfillment of this request: the uncensored report sat securely behind glass. In its penultimate state, the project thus expressed "what it means to have a secret but not the autonomy to share it."

AIVD entered Tate Modern, in 2010, to permanently confiscate Magid's uncensored manuscript. A paperback of the redacted version, Becoming Tarden, was published in 2010.

Failed States

On January 21, 2010, a man attempted to enter the Texas State Capitol to speak with a Senator's aide. Immediately upon exiting the building, he fired six shots into the sky. Magid, coincidentally, was on a trip to research the history of snipers in Austin; her eyewitness account of the shooting aired on several media outlets.

The motivations of the young shooter, Fausto Cardenas, remain unknown. He was charged with perpetrating a terrorist threat to the government, but the trial date for his case was continuously delayed. Fausto accepted a plea bargain, in August 2011, "ultimately silencing himself."

Magid responded strongly to "the symbolic gesture of six shots into the sky, the fateful setting, the silence that refuses to ground [Fausto] in political rhetoric or personal instability." For Closet Drama, her 2011 exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum, and the subsequent Failed States, the artist drew thematic and formal connections between Fausto's act and Goethe's nineteenth-century poem, Faust. Acting "as eyewitness and dramaturge," Magid linked themes of tragedy and futility between Fausto and his nominal relative, even bringing texts of Faust's monologues into the gallery space as implicit stand-ins for the shooter's silence. Goethe's epic was originally written as a "closet drama," "a play to be read rather than performed". In Magid's hands, the gallery transformed into a "stage to be read," with language, sculpture, video and image creating an intertextual weave between stories and events, individuals and publics, actions and aftermaths.

The day of the shooting, Magid met with a reporter, "CT," who had previously embedded with the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over a series of meetings, the artist decided to train to embed with CT on his next trip to Afghanistan. CT informed her that they would navigate the country in a "hard car" – usually a Mercedes – armored to withstand gunfire while blending into traffic. Magid promptly decided to armor her 1993 Mercedes station wagon and, as part of her 2012 exhibition at AMOA-Arthouse, Austin, parked the car in the spot where Fausto had parked on the day he fired his six shots.

Auto Portrait Pending

In 2005, Magid signed a contract with Lifegem, a company that specializes in turning cremated bodies into diamonds. The artist specified that, upon her death, 8 ounces of carbon from her remains will be transformed into a one-carat, round-cut diamond estimated to cost about $20,000, to be set in a gold ring.

Auto Portrait Pending is exhibited as an incomplete form of Magid's self-portrait. A contract containing three sections (a corporate contract, artist's preamble and a private beneficiary contract), a ring box and the unset gold ring make up its existing parts. The beneficiary contract allows for ownership of "the artist (in symbolic terms) until her death, after which her ashes will be transformed into a jewel to be put in the ring on permanent display." At the beginning of the beneficiary contract it is stated that the funeral and artwork are to be completely separate. The beneficiary who is unknown at this time must be a collector or institution with a substantial collection where the piece will remain in permanent display. In her own words, "The beneficiary is usually the loved one. The husbands gets the wife, the wife the husband, etcetera. I specify the beneficiary as a collector."

"Representation is exchanged for reality. It is a kind of Faustian pact (a recurring motif for the artist, in fact) with Magid bartering for eternal existence in the form of a carefully curated gemstone commodity, offering her own body as an artwork in the making, and in so doing tying herself in very strange relationship with an unknown Beneficiary: technically she becomes their property-to-be."

The Barragán Archives

Since 2013, Magid has been exploring the story of the archives of the late Mexican architect Luis Barragán, which are currently owned in their entirety by a Swiss manufacturing family. Barragán's archives have been closely held by the owners, who have denied researches access and closely guarded copyrights, to the dismay of various artists and historians. She wanted to explore the rumor that Rolf Fehlbaum bought the rights to the archives in lieu of an engagement ring for his fiancée, the Italian architectural historian Frederica Zanco. She determined that she would make a diamond ring from the cremated ashes of Barragán (with the permission of his family) that she would ultimately use to "propose" to Zanco. She would give the ring to Zanco, a devoted fan and scholar of Barragán's work, if Zanco agreed to return the archives to Mexico. Magid got to know Zanco through an extended correspondence, and made the "proposal," telling Zanco, "I am offering you the body for the body of work." Zanco has not (yet) accepted the proposition.

The project is still considered ongoing and has been the subject of various exhibitions and installations. The project seeks to explore the "intersection of the psychological with the judicial, national identity and repatriation, international property rights and copyright law, authorship and ownership." In November 2013, Magid created an exhibition in New York City about the story and her interactions up to that point with Zanco, being careful respect the archive owners' copyrights while pushing the limits by, for example, framing a copy of Zanco's book on Barragán instead of framing the images themselves. She also put on an exhibition in Switzerland in June 2016 showcasing objects and videos related to her "proposal" to Zanco. The exhibition will travel to the San Francisco Art Institute in September 2016.


One Cycle of Memory in the City of L (2004) comprises the thirty-one Subject Access Request Forms Magid filed to obtain access to CCTV footage from Evidence Locker, her 2004 collaboration with Liverpool's City Watch. These forms ask for the time and nature of the incidents in question, which Magid supplied along with expressions of affection for their implicit recipients. In the artist's work, an intimacy can form between a pedestrian and her surveillants, and a bureaucratic document can testify to that relationship.

Lincoln Ocean Victor Eddy (2007) emerged from a five-month period Magid spent shadowing a New York police officer during his nightly rounds through the city's subway system. The book forgoes the mediating structure of legal documents, as in One Cycle of Memory in the City of L, by providing a diaristic account of Magid's feelings towards her companion – a shift to character-driven writing that continues in the artist's later books, Becoming Tarden and Failed States.

Writing in The New York Times, critic Roberta Smith describes Magid's text as "quietly heart-rending novella, a kind of tunnel vision of two people moving along parallel tracks while the city hums around them. The relationship is never consummated, but ‘Lincoln Ocean Victor Eddy' spells love."

Part of The Spy Project, Becoming Tarden (2010) is a non-fiction novel that emerged from Magid's interviews with eighteen agents of the Dutch secret service (AIVD). Following Magid's submission of a draft, in 2008, the organization censored forty percent of the contents, from compromising information to the artist's personal descriptions and recollections. AIVD conceded to allow Magid to exhibit the uncensored report – only once – "‘as a visual work of art.'" Following its secure display in 2009/10 at the Tate Modern, the Dutch government assumed ownership of the manuscript.

In a letter to AIVD, Magid remarked: "‘The book, Becoming Tarden, is a memoir of our involvement. I had dreams of publishing it as my first novel. You are its only reader. Seize it. Strip it. Hold it in your building and seal it under glass. I comply.'"

A redacted paperback version of Becoming Tarden was published in 2010.

Failed States (2012) departs from the project of the same name, shifting focus to "CT," a former embedded war correspondent who helps train Magid to embed in Afghanistan. The artist formerly played the role of incidental witness to Fausto's shooting, but in the book, actively seeks out training with a "personal desire to engage the war on terror and its media representation through becoming an eyewitness."

This non-fiction novel marks a new stage in Magid's writing: unlike previous works, its contents never enter the gallery space. The topics of the Closet Drama and Failed States exhibitions, in turn, are barely mentioned in the book.

Critical Response

Magid's work "is incisive in its poetic questioning of the ethics of human behavior and the hidden political structures of society. Her intelligent conceptual strategies engage the viewer in an absorbing aesthetic and intellectual experience that turns conventional assumptions of power, secrecy, control and social space inside out."

"For Magid, the art is the process of getting intimate with systems, of subverting technology into sensuality, seduction, a love affair […] the process of seduction is her art."

"Ms. Magid […] seems motivated by an urge to infiltrate and personalize, if not sexualize, the anonymous social and technological systems that surround us. She pursues an idiosyncratic kind of body art descended from artists like Vito Acconci, Adrian Piper and Sophie Calle."


Jill Magid Wikipedia