Jill Magid Puts Blind Trust in the Police

THE DAILY PIC: At the ICP, Magid leaves her artist's vision in the hands of the authorities.

THE DAILY PIC (#1581): As I said in yesterday’s Pic, despite unworthy new lodgings, “Public, Private, Secret”, the inaugural show at the relocated International Center of Photography, is full of fine pieces that talk about vision and surveillance in our times.

Putting my column where my mouth is, here’s one of my favorites: Jill Magid’s Trust, an 18-minute video from way back in 2004. (Click on my image to watch a clip and to hear a talk by Magid.) On the crowded streets of Liverpool, Magid closes her eyes and puts her fate in the hands of the men who staff the city’s vast surveillance-camera network. They watch her as she blindly walks the streets, guiding her away from collisions via an earpiece that she wears.

There’s lot to say here about the surveillance state we live in, and the irony of turning it into a force for good. (Which I guess it occasionally is, when crimes are stopped or prevented.) But I was more struck by another reversal in the piece.

Almost all art has cast artists as guides for the rest of us, working by means of what they’ve taken in through their eyes. For an artist to close her eyes and refuse to do any leading seems a profound and fascinating dereliction of duty – a refusal of authority that is rare, and that I think has feminist implications.

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.


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