I Can Burn your Face, 2008, Test neon 8 mm, Courtesy Jill Magid and Yvon Lambert, Paris

Jill Magid
*1973 in Connecticut
lives in New York

In 2005 the offices of the AVID were to be relocated. Under Dutch law, a percentage of the project’s total budget had to be used to commission a new artwork for the building. The organization used this as an opportunity to improve upon their public persona, or in their own words, ‘to provide the AIVD with a human face’. From 2005 to 2008 Magid 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 me to collect personal data of the agents and to use this information to find the organization’s face. Each work in this series reveals specific characteristics of the participating AIVD agents but never disclose their identities entirely.

'To burn a face' is the phrase used within the AIVD meaning to expose a source’s identity. Magid wrote descriptions of each agent she interviewed in her notebooks, 18 in total, then used these descriptions to burn them. The neon words are lifted directly from my notebooks, and are in the artist’s own handwriting. In 2009, to reflect the confiscation of seven of the 18 Spies print edition, seven of the neons were permanently turned off. Jill Magid fulfilled her commission for the Dutch Secret Service and they have since censored and confiscated some of the works that were on view at Stroom, as well as the book Becoming Tarden (Tate Modern, 2009) where she wrote about the experience. These confiscations have since been incorporated as material in her works.