The Thicker The Glass
Press Release: Yvon Lambert is pleased to announce The Thicker the Glass, Jill Magid's first solo exhibiton at the gallery's Paris space. In The Thicker the Glass, Magid explores the nature of government secrecy and obligatory silence through her work with the Dutch secret service.
Under compulsion to commission a public artwork for a new building, the AIVD— the General Intelligence and Security Service of the Netherlands, or the Dutch Intelligence Agency —decided to use it as an opportunity to improve their public image. In 2005, Magid was selected by the AIVD to “provide the AIVD with a human face.”
After being formally vetted, Magid was given unprecedented permission to interview agents within the organization. Over the course of three years, these conversations took place in nondescript public places—hotel bars and cafes, lounges and airport meeting points—and were meticulously recorded by Magid in handwritten notebooks. (I Can Burn Your Face, the neon series in this exhibition, is lifted directly from them). By collecting agents’ personal data, Magid hoped to sketch the “face” of the organization. The resultant work, Article 12, was exhibited last spring in The Hague.
Magid continued to explore the emotional, philosophical, and legal conflicts between “protective” institutions and individual identity in an unpublished manuscript detailing her experience with the organization and its agents. Magid meticulously recorded her exchanges and impressions in diary form.
Before the opening in The Hague, Magid gave the agency a copy of her working manuscript to redact. Unfortunately, the AIVD did not like what they read. They confiscated a number of pieces after the show had already opened, and returned to Magid, via a representative from the Dutch Embassy in Washington, D.C, a heavily redacted version of the text she had offered them.
Magid’s multimedia installation for Yvon Lambert highlights the legal and ethical issues of presenting work focused on an organization mired in secrecy. In The 18 Spies, eighteen letterpress prints (seven have been confiscated by the AIVD) describe the eighteen agents with whom she met. On the floor, six spies burn in red neon light (three have been turned off, due to the AIVD's confiscation of the prints that define them). To ‘burn’ a face is a term, used by the AIVD, meaning to expose an agent’s identity.
In the gallery window near the bookstore is the redacted manuscript, and the series The Kosinski Quotes, nine quotes from the novel Cockpit by Polish-born writer Jerzy Kosinski, the protagonist of which is a former operative of a mysterious government agency living a life free of identity—in a way, describing Magid’s personal methodology.