Becoming Tarden (Installation view)
In 2005, artist Jill Magid was commissioned by the Dutch secret service (AIVD) to create a work that would reveal the human face of the organization. During the next three years she met with eighteen agents who volunteered to be interviewed, but remained anonymous even to her. The project resulted in a variety of forms, among them a novel called Becoming Tarden—Tarden being a character in Polish-American novelist Jerzy Kosinski’s book Cockpit, an agent (a “hummingbird”) whose real identity is kept from other agents and is often disguised as a cultural official, a businessman, an artist, or writer. Up to 40 percent of Magid’s manuscript was censored by the AIVD, as they felt their methods and the identities of their agents were being exposed. After negotiations with the organization, Magid agreed to let them seize the uncensored body of the book after being exposed—under glass and out of reach—from the Tate Modern in London earlier this year. She retained for herself only the prologue and the epilogue. Becoming Tarden resonates with Magid’s larger body of work, which involves the infiltration of closed systems and the turning of surveillance back on itself. For instance her project LOVE, in which her request for a cop to search her post-9/11 New York, became the basis of a long relationship in which she surveyed the MTA’s inner workings.
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