Becoming Tarden

Jill Magid


Book, 20.8 x 13.4 cm, 181 p, language: English, publisher: Minneapolis, Minnesota: Print Craft, ISBN: N/A.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2024/837).

Literary synopsis

"The fairytale of the artist and the secret service just had to end badly" —The Wall Street Journal. In 2005, 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 18 agents who volunteered to be interviewed, but remained anonymous even to her. The project resulted in a variety of forms, among them her non-fiction novel, Becoming Tarden. Forty percent of the manuscript was censored by the AIVD in 2008. After legal negotiations with the organization, Magid agreed to let it seize the uncensored body of the book after being exposed—under glass and out of reach—from her solo exhibition Authority to Remove at the Tate Modern in London, early 2010. The redacted paperback edition of Becoming Tarden was published later that year.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

Jill Magid seeks intimate relationships with impersonal structures. The systems she chooses to work with—such as police, CCTV, and in this case, secret services, function at a distance, with a wide-angle perspective, equalizing everyone and erasing the individual. The artist seeks the potential softness and intimacy of their technologies, the fallacy of their omniscient point of view, the ways in which they hold memory (yet often cease to remember), their engrained position in society (the cause of their invisibility), their authority, their apparent intangibility— and, with all of this, their potential reversibility. Becoming Tarden is part of a larger body of works, The Spy Project. The Spy Project includes performance, prints, neon, sculpture, and video, and manifested over the course of four years, with some works responding and transforming based upon the Dutch secret service’s (legal) reaction to them. Becoming Tarden is Jill Magid’s third book; she recently published her fourth. The books are all related to a larger body of work, but all can function autonomously.

Novel's website

Book Design: Emily Lessard

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