The Contemporary Austin
700 Congress Avenue
artist / participant
On January 21, 2010, 24-year-old Fausto Cardenas fired six shots from a small caliber handgun into the air from the steps of the Texas State Capitol, just blocks from the site of this exhibition. Coincidentally, Jill Magid was present as a witness. Fausto’s motivations still remain unknown.
Failed States is an exploration of coincidence, poetics, government power and bureaucracy. Fausto’s silence lies at the heart of the exhibition. Charged with perpetrating a terrorist threat to a government system, his case nearly came to trial numerous times only to be continuously delayed. Last August, Fausto accepted a plea bargain, ultimately silencing himself.
In Failed States, Magid draws connections between Fausto’s futile and tragic act and Goethe’s nineteenth-century epic poem, Faust. Magid mines Faust for thematic connections and develops a means of performative exhibition, treating the gallery as a stage to be studied. Although Faust was originally written as a “closet drama” —a play to be read rather than performed, it is regularly seen on stage. Similarly, the motivations behind Fausto’s act are known only to him, yet they have played out on an extraordinary scale. The exhibition functions on both of these levels, mingling personal and public, fact and fiction, Fausto and Faust.
Magid extends Failed States beyond the gallery with two offsite projects. Failed States, the work from which this exhibition takes its names, was Magid’s family car. The artist had her 1993 Mercedes station wagon armored to B4 level, resistant to 9mm through .44 Magnum gun fire. The car is an invisibly armored closet, installed where Fausto parked his car before approaching the Capitol. Magid will also publish a work in the February issue of the political magazine Texas Observer, further extending her reach into the domestic spaces of subscribers.
Magid is a New York-based artist and writer known for work that infiltrates structures of authority and power by means of engaging their human side. Rather than treating these structures as remote subjects to challenge, Magid creates opportunities to manipulate them, by drawing them closer, exploiting their loopholes, engaging them in dialogue, infiltrating their systems, repeating their logic. Her work relies on the malleability of language and its use as a conceptual tool, revealing gray areas of the law, and creating both an opening and a dialogue where there they didn’t exist before.
Magid has had solo exhibitions at various institutions around the world including Tate Modern, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; UC Berkeley Museum of Art & Pacific Film Archive, California; Tate Liverpool; the Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Amsterdam; The Centre D’Arte Santa Monica, Barcelona, and at the Security and Intelligence Agency of the Netherlands. She is the author of four books including Becoming Tarden, a novel that was edited, censored, and confiscated by the Security and Intelligence Agency of the Netherlands. This is the first presentation of her work in Texas.
Ort: The Jones Center