Jill Magid’s Closet Drama

Jill Magid’s Closet Drama

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)

Jill Magid, “The Sky From the Capital Steps,” 2010.
Digital photograph.

March 14, 2011

Jill Magid
Closet Drama

March 20–June 12, 2011

University of California,
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA)

2626 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94720

Jill Magid’s work involves infiltrating systems of authority and power to explore issues of vulnerability, observation, and trust. By drawing institutions closer, exploiting their loopholes, seducing their agents, repeating their logic, and pushing the limits of revelation, she has developed a highly conceptual, performance-based practice. Her collaborators include police officers in New York, Liverpool, and Amsterdam, and, most visibly, the Dutch Secret Service. Her work here varies in form—video, photographs, sculptures, installations, printed text, books—yet most have some connection to the documentation of her process.

Magid’s more recent work engages the written word and its use as an agent of control, manipulation, and distortion. A Reasonable Man in a Box (2010) concerns the Bybee Memo, a.k.a the Torture Memos, which made the legal case for United States officials to engage in “enhanced interrogation.” Using video, collage, and text, Magid’s work revealed the instability of language, its malleability evidenced by the multivalence of interpretation and the gaps in translating word into action.

Magid’s MATRIX commission Closet Drama also has its roots in present-day events as they intersect with governmental power. Magid witnessed a mysterious shooting on the steps of the Texas State Capitol by Fausto Cardenas in January 2010. Nothing is known of Cardenas’s motivations, but his gesture of shooting into the sky from the Capitol steps—in full view of security— reads as a tragic and poetic dramatic act. For this project, Magid connects Fausto’s action to Goethe’s Faust, originally written as a “closet drama,” a kind of intimate reading that functions as a theater of the mind. In Faust, Magid finds both thematic connections and a form of performative exhibition, as symbolic and narrative triggers from the play Faust and the actions of Fausto intermingle in the galleries. The exhibition takes the form of a stage for a closet drama scripted by Magid in the space between these two references, as word and action fold around one another like a Möbius strip. She infiltrates the historic text and its many translations, insinuating the present, and engaging larger themes of truth and fiction, language and translation, history and legend, gesture and performance, revelation and redaction, individual and institution.

Closet Drama is a co-commission with Arthouse at the Jones Center, Austin, TX.

Jill Magid’s solo exhibitions include those at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Stroom and the AIVD (Dutch Secret Service), Amsterdam; and Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at The Singapore Biennial; The New Museum, New York; Museo Tamayo, Mexico City; Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw; Townhouse Gallery, Cairo; Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York; Museum of Contemporary Arts, Taipei; and Tate Museum, Liverpool, among others. She has performed at venues including Location One, New York; Museum Tamayo, Mexico City; Eyebeam, New York; and Museum of Modern Art, New York. She was a resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam and received her M.S. in Visual Studies from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Magid currently lives and works in New York.

Jill Magid: Closet Drama / MATRIX 237 is curated by Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator Elizabeth Thomas.

Artist’s Talk
Sunday, March 20, 3 p.m.
Museum Theater
Admission is free.


The MATRIX Program at BAM/PFA is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive


Gallery Hours:

Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; open till 9 p.m. on L@TE Fridays

Closed Monday and Tuesday
Press contact: 
Peter Cavagnaro pcavagnaro@berkeley.edu

*Image above:
Courtesy of the artist and Yvon Lambert, Paris, New York.

Jill Magid's Closet Drama
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University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)
March 14, 2011

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