American artist Jill Magid’s (b 1973) work is deeply ingrained in her lived experience, exploring and blurring the boundaries between art and life. Her performance-based work is characterised by themes of seduction, inviting the audience to follow a narrative of increasing intimacy between the artist and an institution, whereby rules of such institutional engagement are strictly followed, often to the point of absurdity.
In her Level 2 exhibition at Tate Modern, Magid explores the themes of secrets and secrecy, reflecting on the emotional, philosophical and artistic relations between institutions and the individual. The exhibition will be centred around her first novel, Becoming Tarden, which tells the story of Magid’s commission by the Dutch Secret Service (AIVD) to create an artwork for its new headquarters. Her brief was to find the human face of the organisation through conversations with its members.
Intrigued by the question of what it would feel like to surrender her identity and become an agent herself, Magid requested and was granted security clearance, allowing her to penetrate the organisation more deeply. In this way, she began a transformation from artist to agent, echoing the experiences of the author Jerzy Kosinski and the fictional protagonist of his novel, Cockpit, Tarden. Invoking both the fictional character of Tarden and that of his creator, Magid exposes the complex layers of fact, fiction and role playing which surround the mysterious world of intelligence agencies, but also the shift in her own role from artist to agent.
Magid kept a series of handwritten notebooks documenting her encounters with secret agents, from which she created artworks using a wide range of media. The exhibition includes neon sculptures from the series I Can Burn Your Face 2008, a phrase used among secret agents as a threat of identity exposure, a series of drawing, The Directives, letters and photographs.
The exhibition Article 12 at Stoom Gallery, The Hague in 2008 marked the official end of Magid’s AIVD commission. On display at Tate Modern’s Level 2 exhibition will be both Magid’s manuscript, redacted by the AIVD and her un-redacted novel, Becoming Tarden, the latter secured under glass. This way Authority to Remove follows the AIVD’s proposal to present the book as a visual work of art, after which it would become the property of the Dutch Government.
Redacted in one case, inaccessible in the other, the texts on display will keep many of their secrets to themselves and their presence in the exhibition point towards an important insight Magid derives from the project, stating in her report for AIVD: “The secret itself is much more beautiful than its revelation.”-- www.tate.org.uk