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Jill Magid's "I Can Burn Your Face" on display in  the Yvon Lambert Gallery in Paris in 2009. Credit: Courtesy of Jill Magid
Jill Magid's "I Can Burn Your Face" on display in the Yvon Lambert Gallery in Paris in 2009. Credit: Courtesy of Jill Magid

International surveillance artist to speak at Ohio State

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Jessica Ann, a graduate student in arts and technology, knew it was a long shot when she sent an email to acclaimed international artist Jill Magid asking her if she would be willing to come lecture at Ohio State.

“It was kind of just a fangirl email,” Ann said. “Usually these types of things happen because someone knows someone else.”

The long shot worked. Magid is set to come to OSU on Tuesday to lecture on her work, engage in a question-and-answer session and visit four graduate students’ art studios.

Ann said that it is difficult to put Magid into an artistic box because she does work across all kinds of mediums and platforms, including photographs, videos and novellas.

“Her exhibitions generally include the material outcome of extensive research in different subjects and topics,” Ann said. “She’s really fascinating in that she’s able to do this research and then find material, objects that she creates and then her own commentary.”

Magid’s main focus topic is systems of surveillance. She has collaborated with many surveillance institutions, including police departments, the Dutch secret service and the Liverpool City Watch in the U.K.

This is a topic of great interest to Jeffrey Hazelton, a graduate student in arts and technology, whose artwork also deals with surveillance, specifically the consequences of losing privacy. He said he believes that conversations regarding the current systems of power are important, which is why he said he is excited to hear Magid speak about her approach of embedding herself within these systems while exposing some of their issues and ways to potentially reverse them.

Ann said that Magid is known for embedding herself into her work, and an example of this is her piece, “Lobby 7.” In 1998, in an attempt to show the weak spots in surveillance and how far she can exploit it before the university caught on, Magid hacked into the informational monitors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She had a live feed of her videotaping herself with a lipstick camera. It took the police seven minutes to find her and stop her.

Since then, Ann said Magid has done a lot of work with authorities, including her video “Trust,” in which she closes her eyes and navigates Liverpool solely using the instructions of police-operated closed-circuit television cameras. She also cited a shooting in Texas in which Magid worked with police and used cop-camera footage in part of her artwork depicting the events.

Ann said that while Magid’s themes are about surveillance, she is not trying to make one encapsulating political statement. Rather, each institution is judged on an individual basis.

“It’s about how they are constructed and their effects on us,” Ann said. “For her she’s going into those places and what they’re doing without any overarching prerogative.”

Ann added that she hopes students can walk away from the lecture with the idea that art and life can blur.

The lecture is set to take place on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at the Film & Video Theater in the Wexner Center for the Arts. The event is free and open to the public.

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