Tender Presence is an extension of Jill Magid’s 2020 Creative Time public art project, Tender, in which Magid distributed 120,000 modified U.S. pennies into the economy, equivalent to a single $1,200 COVID-19 stimulus check. Each penny, engraved with the phrase "The Body Was Already So Fragile," is anticipated to circulate for around 40 years, the average length of time a coin remains in rotation. The opening of Tender Presence two years later, amid a legislative and societal push to return to the “new normal,” offers a communal site for reflection on the pandemic and the reality with which many of us are attempting to reconcile: life’s inherent fragility, and the interdependence of all social, financial, and biological health.
The live installation with film and sound is sited within the neoclassical landmark of the historic Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburg at the Dime, a building symbolic of the 19th-century savings bank movement where low-income earners could open an account with a dime. Today, the decommissioned bank sits vacant, reflecting the condition and dissonance between our economic and collective wellbeing.
Visitors are ushered into the bank by the sounds of live musicians positioned throughout the space, invited by these auditory wayfinders to explore the cavernous interior and sculptural installation, and finally, viewers experience a short film featuring footage taken during the onslaught of the nation’s first major lockdown in 2020, including scenes shot within the bank’s surrounding neighborhood. Amidst a rising death toll, the film finds haunting echoes between the momentum of currency and economic exchange, and the finality of scenes depicting the pandemic’s earliest consequences. The film’s live score composed by T. Griffin and site-specific sound installation by Eric Sluyter create an embodied experience of droning and ominous reverberation throughout the duration of the experience.
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Tender Presence is made possible with commissioning sponsorship by the VIA Art Fund.
Lead support is provided by David Yurman.
Major support is provided by Field of Vision and the Guggenheim Fellowship.
The site was made available through in-kind support from Tavros Holdings and Charney Companies.
Support for Tender, 2020 was generously provided by Philip E. and Shelley Fox Aarons, Suzanne and Bob Cochran, Marie Douglas, Molly Gochman, Stephanie and Tim Ingrassia, and Eric Richter.