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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Today in State Surveillance: Artist Jill Magid

Posted by on Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 10:08 AM

Jill Magid is an American-born artist who uses state surveillance (particularly in Europe) as her palette.

A couple of slices from her Wikipedia page:

System Azure is an ongoing work initiated in 2003. In her explorations into surveillance while an artist in residence in Amsterdam, Magid proposed to the Amsterdam police an art project of decorating surveillance cameras. The police rejected this suggestion. Magid returned as a "Security Ornamentation Professional" attached to a fictitious company, complete with portfolio and business card, and pitched the same proposal — but this time as public relations rather than art. This was accepted and Magid was hired to install her work.

Her work was later seized from the Tate Modern by the same Dutch Secret Service agency that commissioned the work. The show was titled "Authority to Remove." I like the way Magid thinks.


Evidence Locker is a 2004 work. During the Liverpool Biennial, Magid engaged Citywatch, Liverpool's closed–circuit video surveillance system (one of the largest in the world). Magrid's strategy for gaining access made use of an exception to the law that all footage is erased after 31 days: if a person sends a request form describing who they are, where they were, and what they were doing (along with a photo and ten pounds), the police must store the footage in the evidence locker for seven years. Magid made such a request for 31 days straight, in the manner of love letters and diary entries.

She ultimately developed a rapport with the agents of Citywatch, and they began to follow her, facilitated by recognizing her patterns of movement and the red coat she wore for that purpose. As Magid and Citywatch became more aware of each other, issues of trust and pitfalls in the logic of the system came out. In one instance, she stood in a square alone and closed her eyes for an extended amount of time. The video operators were afraid for her safety, but felt helpless because they couldn't tell her if something was going to happen. To take this further, she asked if she could borrow a radio receiver with an earplug so she could close her eyes in a busy street, and be guided by the agents watching.

I love the idea that Magid woos/forces the panopticon of state surveillance (which is, by definition, remote and impersonal) into an intimate relationship. That is really the most subversive thing you can do to a state-surveillance system—make it care about you, not as a citizen and potential threat, but as a friend.

Magid has a show up now at the Honor Fraser gallery in Los Angeles.


Comments (3) RSS

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Timrrr 1
Andrea Arnold's first feature Red Road (2006) explores much of the same territory as well.
Posted by Timrrr on June 21, 2012 at 12:56 PM · Report this
Jill Magid is a remarkable artist and writer. In Portland, we've just published the book that is the centerpiece of her current shows at Honor Fraser and Gallery Yvon Lambert (Paris), FAILED STATES.…
Posted by Matthew Stadler on June 21, 2012 at 12:58 PM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 3
Hey, Portland! Suck it, we have a shiny, new Chihuly museum!


(walks away and cries)
Posted by Dr_Awesome on June 22, 2012 at 6:59 AM · Report this

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