Jill Magid’s (SMVisS ’00) ‘Tender’

Jill Magid, Tender Pennies, 2020. Image: Paul Mcgeiver.
ACT at MIT

Conceptual artist and alumna Jill Magid (SMVisS ’00) created a new project, Tender, which she describes as a ‘dispersed monument.’ Entirely funded by Creative Time, Magid’s latest public art piece seeks to “inject 120,000 pennies into the economy of the five boroughs throughout the year, with that number being symbolic of the $1,200 checks that many Americans received at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.”

At bodegas around the boroughs of New York City, Magid has been disseminating the the 2020-issued pennies, the sides of which Magid has had engraved with “THE BODY WAS ALREADY SO FRAGILE.”

From the September 2020 Press Release:

Functioning as a diffuse monument, the phrase on the penny edge serves as the antithesis to the propaganda on the coin’s face. Taken from a text exploring the economic toll of the pandemic, the work employs increasingly pervasive language that weighs the cost of human lives against economic costs. The coins will disperse throughout the economy via networks of commerce and human movement, echoing the spread of viral pathogens such as COVID-19.

“For Creative Time, I wanted to make a monumental sculpture that would circulate through public use. I chose the penny as my site. Pennies are small, promiscuous, national monuments. The coin’s smooth edge – the only surface bare of government propaganda – was ripe for intervention. I added an ambiguous phrase which speaks to the physical and economic vulnerability of the moment. Tender pennies enter the local economy quietly, and travel like rumor,” said Magid.

First wrapped in custom-designed penny wrappers, the coins will be disseminated via a white cash-in-transit vehicle and introduced into the economy throughout bodegas in New York City’s five boroughs. Once released, the project will travel organically through the city, country, and beyond. The project poses the question: How can a monumental public artwork travel—as money does—between individuals, as a network of perpetual social exchange? With an average circulation of 40 years, this project will exist as long as the pennies are in use. The dissemination of the altered coins reimagines public art as not a static entity, but rather as a phenomenon that circulates freely among the population.

“Tender challenges the boundaries of public art. In this continued time of social distancing as an act of care, Tender explores what it means to create a record of the present-day that will continue to circulate for years to come. Magid explores intimacy and exchange as she reflects upon the profound and devastating, yet often unseen, toll of the current pandemic,” said Creative Time Executive Director Justine Ludwig.

Read more about Tender:
New York Times, October 1, 2020, “Why This Artist Is Paying Bodegas With 120,000 Pennies”
Cultured, October 7, 2020, “Jill Magid’s Monumental Currency Project With Creative Time Gives A Penny For Your Thoughts”