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notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK
Friday, October 29, 2004Tracking Jill Magid Biennial was doing at the Tate today.
Many things to enjoy - the labyrinth with wooly walls which invites you in at the door of the exhibition; Esko Mannikko's portraits of laughing occupants of high-rise Altbridge Park; a documentary of a bunch of arts workers transforming Canning Street into Edwardian Dublin (featuring a nice couple, who work for FACT, who I married earlier in the year); Yuan Goang-Ming's City Disqualified - a slow-moving cinematic rotation around the streets of the city centre with all traces of human life digitally removed; a wall full of notes people had written about their mums prompted by Yoko's citywide display of intimacy My Mummy is Beautiful.
Next to the Yoko wall, a fascinating cd, LiverBeatlespool. Cildo Mendes has taken the top 27 Beatles songs (from the album The Beatles: 1), and layered one track on another across the central note of each. What happens is the longest track, Hey Jude, starts up, then a couple of minutes later Come Together joins it, then others are added until it is all white noise and texture, which gradually fades back down to the closing lines of Hey Jude. I leaned against the wall, closed my eyes and spent 7 minutes 4 seconds enjoying it. Doubtless dome visitors during that time passed me thinking I was an exhibit.
What I most enjoyed, though, was Jill Magid's Evidence Locker. The record of 31 days in one woman's life as caught on camera by the surveillance staff of Liverpool City Watch (Merseyside Police and Liverpool City Council).
City Watch's video surveillance is the largest of its kind in England, and Magid's decision to wear a bright red trench coat and knee-length boots, ensured she was easily identifiable throughout the city for the duration of her project. Each day Magid would call the police on duty with details of where she was and ask them to film her in particular poses - all using the public surveilance cameras in Liverpool city centre. The result is a number of short films at FACT and the Tate.
The one which most fascinated me is called Trust, in which, at the head of Church Street (the city's busiest shopping area) on a Saturday afternoon, she shuts her eyes and asks the CCTV operator to guide her to the other end of the street while she keeps her eyes closed. The result is compulsive viewing - amusing (seeing people's responses to her antics), shocking (reacting to her stops and starts as vehicles and people brush her by), moving in parts (sensing the operator's growing engagement with her task and his desire to help her through). By the end, this engagement between the artist and the operator becomes tangibly sensual.
The book of the film, One Cycle of Memory in the City of L (which I bought at the Tate shop but is available as a series of 31 emails here), strips back the layers of meaning in all this, as Magid and 'the operator' admit their feelings at the end of Jill's walk and many subtleties are exposed. It's very entertaining too.
Magid's artistic mission is to create new forms of human interaction using technological systems; as Ceri Hand says in the Biennial catalogue, this project 'enabled [Magid] to blur the line between reality and fantasy, social control and mutual trust'. And to get a ride on the back of a policeman's motorbike on a poignant last afternoon before easyJet carried her home to Amsterdam.