Press Release: Jill Magid’s recent work explores the intersection of governmental power and current events. For MATRIX she considers a mysterious shooting she witnessed at the Texas State Capitol in relation to Goethe’s Faust.
Jill Magid’s work involves infiltrating systems of authority and power to explore issues of vulnerability, observation, and trust. By drawing institutions closer, exploiting their loopholes, seducing their agents, repeating their logic, and pushing the limits of revelation, she has developed a highly conceptual, performance-based practice. Her collaborators include police officers in New York, Liverpool, and Amsterdam, and, most visibly, the Dutch Secret Service. Her work here varies in form—video, photographs, sculptures, installations, printed text, books—yet most have some connection to the documentation of her process.
Magid’s more recent work engages the written word and its use as an agent of control, manipulation, and distortion. A Reasonable Man in a Box (2010) concerns the Bybee Memo, a.k.a the Torture Memos, which made the legal case for United States officials to engage in “ enhanced interrogation.” Using video, collage, and text, Magid’s work revealed the instability of language, its malleability evidenced by the multivalence of interpretation and the gaps in translating word into action.
Magid’s MATRIX commission Closet Drama also has its roots in present-day events as they intersect with governmental power. Magid witnessed a mysterious shooting on the steps of the Texas State Capitol by Fausto Cardenas in January 2010. Nothing is known of Cardenas’s motivations, but his gesture of shooting into the sky from the Capitol steps—in full view of security— reads as a tragic and poetic dramatic act. For this project, Magid connects Fausto’s action to Goethe’s Faust, originally written as a “ closet drama,” a kind of intimate reading that functions as a theater of the mind. In Faust, Magid finds both thematic connections and a form of performative exhibition, as symbolic and narrative triggers from the play Faust and the actions of Fausto intermingle in the galleries. The exhibition takes the form of a stage for a closet drama scripted by Magid in the space between these two references, as word and action fold around one another like a Möbius strip. She infiltrates the historic text and its many translations, insinuating the present, and engaging larger themes of truth and fiction, language and translation, history and legend, gesture and performance, revelation and redaction, individual and institution.