Artist Profile | Jill Magid

Jill Magid. Photo: Paul McGeiver
ACT at MIT

American artist Jill Magid’s (SMVisS ’00) work is deeply ingrained in her lived experience, exploring and blurring the boundaries between art and life. Through her performance-based practice, Magid has initiated intimate relations with a number of organizations and structures of authority. She explores the emotional, philosophical and legal tensions between the individual and ‘protective’ institutions, such as intelligence agencies or the police. To work alongside or within large organizations, Magid makes use of institutional quirks, systemic loopholes that allow her to make contact with people ‘on the inside’. Her work tends to be characterized by the dynamics of seduction, the resulting narratives often taking the form of a love story. It is typical of Magid’s practice that she follows the rules of engagement with an institution to the letter – sometimes to the point of absurdity.

Her dynamic practice is deeply interrogative, forging intimate relationships within bureaucratic structures—flirting with, seducing, and subverting authority. Her projects probe seemingly impenetrable systems, such as the New York City Police Department, the Dutch Secret Service, surveillance systems, and, most recently, the restricted archive of Mexican architect Luis Barragán. By infiltrating and unsettling powerful institutions, she locates unexpected and rich communities within the structures of bureaucracy.

The Barragán Archives is an extended, multimedia project examining of the legacy of Mexican architect and Pritzker Prize-winner Luis Barragán (1902–1988). Magid considers both Barragán’s professional and personal archives, and how the intersections of his official and private selves reveal divergent and aligned interests, as well as those of the institutions that have become the archives’ guardians.

Along with the vast majority of his architecture, Barragán’s personal archive remains in Mexico while his professional archive, including the rights to the architect’s name and work, were acquired in 1995 by Swiss furniture company Vitra, under the auspices of the newly founded Barragan Foundation. By developing long-term relationships with various personal, governmental, and corporate entities, Magid explores the intersection of the psychological with the judicial, national identity and repatriation, international property rights and copyright law, authorship and ownership.

The project is ongoing and results in a series of objects, installations, performances and her first feature film, The Proposal. Exhibitions of the project exist as opportunities to push the narrative forward, and reflects —within the work— the legal parameters of the country in which they are shown.

With solo exhibitions at institutions around the world including Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City; Tate Modern, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Berkeley Museum of Art, California; Tate Liverpool; the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam; Yvon Lambert, Paris and New York; Gagosian Gallery, New York; and the Security and Intelligence Agency of the Netherlands, Magid has received awards from the Fonds Voor Beeldende Kunsten, the Netherland-American Foundation Fellowship Fulbright Grant, and the 2017 Calder Prize. Magid has participated in the Liverpool, Lyon, Bucharest, Singapore, Incheon, Gothenburg, and Performa Biennials, and Manifesta, among others. She is an Associate of the Art, Design and the Public Domain program at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, and a 2013-15 fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics. An adjunct teacher at Cooper Union, Magid is the author of four novellas. Her first feature film, The Proposal, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival 2018 and received an Honorable Mention for Best Emerging Filmmaker at Hot Docs in Toronto. Her work is included the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Fundacion Jumex, and the Walker Art Center, among others.