Jill Magid

Evidence Locker, U.S.A., 2004, England

Incident Retrieved Digital video, 7.14 min

Courtesy of the artist

Jill Magid is a young artist living in New York and Amsterdam and her work is motivated by a desire to infiltrate the anonymous social and technological systems and hold an intimate dialogue with them. Magid works with closed circuit television cameras, searching for intimate spaces in the public sphere.

In her pieces “Bring Back the Glam” and “Evidence Locker” Magid enlists the help of Amsterdam and Liverpool police, and the narrative of her work emerges from the interaction between her and their surveillance cameras.

In one of her pieces Magid even decorates Amsterdam surveillance cameras and transforms them from hidden means to revealed and declared ends in the city. Thus she neutralizes their power of policing and supervision, but does not totally neutralize their capabilities, because their very presence has deterrent effect.

Today we’re photographed all the time, Magid says, and there’s no longer any difference between us and the stars on the screen. Bringing back the glam means sabotaging the day to day functionality of the cameras, and using their power to enter the reality of fantasy.

In the piece “Evidence Locker” Magid treads the line between the every day and the cinematic, by casting herself as the heroine of a film, staged by Liverpool police.

The city of Liverpool is strewn with 242 closed circuit television cameras, monitored by the police and the city council in a hidden monitoring suite in the city centre. The material photographed by the 242 cameras is kept in a digital file, guarded by the central computer of police headquarters, and may be used as evidence as late as seven years on. Magid developed a relationship with the police, and created her own evidence locker, a cycle of evidence. She would wear a red raincoat, which ensured that she would be easily recognised throughout the city, and then contact the police and pass them the details of her destination, and even ask police personnel to direct her through the length and breadth of the city with her eyes shut.

Liverpool’s surveillance system, like the similar systems in place in many other cities, is meant to maintain order and prevent crime. In this project the artist subverts the function of the surveillance cameras. When she uses them as a film crew, and turns the city into a stage, she blurs the dividing line between reality and fantasy, between social control and mutual trust. Her remark seems particularly relevant today, in light of the global paranoia surrounding questions of personal and collective safety.