press release

Recently the AIVD (Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst) took up residence in its newly renovated building in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands. The organization is using this opportunity to improve its image. The American artist Jill Magid was given access into this closed stronghold to research 'the human face’ of the secret service. It has brought her into contact with its individual ‘employees’, each of whom plays an intrinsic part in the makeup of this face. The result, an exceptional series of works of an outstanding organization, is presented in the exhibition ‘Article 12’ at Stroom Den Haag. The show was realized in cooperation with Huib Haye van der Werf (advisor Atelier Rijksbouwmeester).

“I was one of the specially trained groups of agents called “the hummingbirds”. The men and women of this group are so valuable that to protect their covers no central file is kept on them and their identities are seldom divulged to other agents. Most hummingbirds remain on assignment as long as they lead active cover lives, usually as high-ranking government officials, military or cultural officials based in foreign countries. Others serve as businessmen, scientists, editors, writers and artists. But I always used to wonder what would happen if a hummingbird vanished, leaving no proof...” [Quote from ‘Cockpit’ by Jerzy Kosinski, 1975]

Over the last three years Magid has conducted numerous interviews with employees of the AIVD. These conversations took place in bars and non-descript public places. The purpose of these meetings was for Magid to collect personal data of the employees and to use this information to define the organization’s face. The results of these interviews are the newly produced works in the exhibition ‘Article 12’ – the article on the protection of personal data - at Stroom. Each work in the show reveals specific characteristics of the participating AIVD employees but never discloses their identities entirely.

Ultimately the process of her method defined the outcome: what was made and what was left unresolved. The product of this outcome is a variety of visual, textual, and conceptual works. Through the exhibition at Stroom, the AIVD is presented publicly, in a gallery context where the Organization becomes the observed rather than the observer. The link with the core-organization however, is ever present as the opening of the exhibition in Stroom coincided with that of the AIVD’s renovated building, as well as one of the works being present at both locations. Stroom can be seen as an auxiliary of the AIVD, and vice-versa.

Jill Magid (1973, USA, lives and works in New York and Amsterdam) seeks intimate relations with impersonal structures. She is intrigued by hidden information, being public as a condition for existence, and intimacy in relation to power, manipulation, and observation.

Special thanks to: Mondriaan Stichting and Atelier Rijksbouwmeester.

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Jill Magid: Article 12