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Jill Magid’s work is deeply ingrained in her lived experience, and explores the emotional, philosophical and legal tensions between individual and “protective” institutions or authoritarian systems such as intelligence agencies, the police, and the military.
Magid’s series Illuminations (2019–ongoing) is inspired by the controversial “Jesus Rifles,” a set of gunsights produced by the American company Trijicon, used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers, whose model numbers include Bible codes. Each of the selected Bible verse contains the word “light.” For this installation, the gunsights lock onto specifically selected books in which a quote, also including the word “light” and and complicating the verse’s meaning, has been illuminated. For I am the Light of the World (2019), the work presented at the Biennial, Magid has mounted ACOG4X32JN8:12 to the spine of a Russian edition of Mikhail Bulgakov’s collected novels, ISBN 5-270-00800-9. The scope model number has been burnished, and a passage from The Master and Margarita has been gilded on it. Using the optical devices as a literal and metaphorical lens, the work echoes the very history of the biennial’s venue and probes the brutal hypocrisy and dangerous collapse of military and religious systems, by addressing the themes of visibility and illumination.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
ISBN 5-270-00800-9 p. 716
He paused and added: “But why don’t you take him with you into the light?” “He does not deserve the light, he deserves peace,” Levi said in a sorrowful voice.
The Barragán Archives is a multimedia project examining the legacy of Mexican architect Luis Barragán (1902–1988). Along with most of his architecture, Barragán’s personal archive remains in Mexico. Since 1994, however, his professional archive has been held below the corporate headquarters of the furniture company Vitra in Switzerland. The archive was allegedly
purchased by the company’s chairman as an engagement present for his fiancée, Federica Zanco, in lieu of a ring. Zanco’s non-profit organization, the Barragan Foundation, controls the complete rights to Barragán’s name and work, and has ensured that the archive remains closed to the public. The project has resulted in a series of objects, installations, performances, and a feature film that explore what can happen to an artist’s legacy when a corporation owns and tightly controls the rights to his work.
Three artworks are presented here. The Exhumation documents the removal of Barragán’s cremated remains from the Rotunda of the Illustrious Persons of Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico. These were given to Magid, who then delivered them to a company in Switzerland where they were transformed into a diamond. The neon sign comments on the capitalist neutralization at stake in the trademark Barragan®: by removing the accent from “Barragán,” a character from the architect’s country of origin, the Barragan Foundation detaches it from its cultural identity.
The “carpet of flowers” at the biennial was installed by the same artisan who annually makes the Tapete de Flores in the Pantéon de Dolores—Mexico City’s largest cemetery. An “offering” installed on the Day of the Dead in Mexico to celebrate family members who have died, it represents the shared path between the living and the dead.