Jill Magid, Still from A Reasonable Man in a Box, 2010
Courtesy the artist and Yvon Lambert, Paris and New York
In her first solo exhibition in an American museum, Jill Magid (b. 1973) continues to explore the penetration of closed systems of power. Taking institutional structures, rules, laws, and language as her mediums, Magid has developed a conceptually rigorous, largely performance-based practice in which she seeks to engage institutions on a personal, intimate level. Developed for the Whitney Museum’s first-floor Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz Gallery, Magid’s A Reasonable Man in a Box takes its point of departure from the “Bybee Memo,” a controversial 2002 document signed by Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, and declassified by President Obama in 2009. The document discusses acceptable methods of “enhanced interrogation” of a high-level Al Qaeda operative, including the use of a confinement box. A Reasonable Man in a Box explores the perversion of reason, and the malleability of language and law. Using video, collage, and text, Magid transforms an international and political issue into a physical and intensely personal experience. The installation represents an artist’s desire to engage a legal memo—and her government—in dialogue, and to unlock a closed system of clean-sounding legal language with a single rhetorical question. Curated by Chrissie Iles, Ann and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art.