After receiving a Master’s degree in Visual Studies at MIT Boston in 2000, with a thesis entitled Monitoring Desire, Magid started working on a complex body of work exploring the relationships
between surveillance and voyeurism, control and desire. Her work often involves dispositifs of surveillance and entities that conduct surveillance, such as police and secret services. The subject of
surveillance is often her own body, which Magid exposes to the impersonal eye of the surveillance camera in the attempt to reach the eye of the beholder. In her early works, she wears clothing and shoes lined or fitted with mirror panels, and she designs mirror tools to capture things otherwise impossible to hold. In the performance Lobby 7 (1999), performed in the main lobby of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Magid hijacks the lobby’s informational monitor, interrupting its daily broadcast with a transmission that features real-time exploration of her body via a lipstick surveillance camera, which she holds in her hand. The natural evolution of this research is the Surveillance Shoe (2000), a pair of high-heeled shoes equipped with an infrared surveillance camera, which records what is usually hidden to the eye.
In Evidence Locker Jill Magid engaged Citywatch, Liverpool’s closed-circuit video surveillance system. Her strategy for gaining access made use of an exception to the law that all footage be erased after 31 days: if a person sends in a request form describing who they are, where they were, and what they were doing (along with a photo and ten pounds), the police must store the footage in the evidence locker for seven years. Magid made such a request for 31 days straight, in the manner of love letters
and diary entries.
She ultimately developed a rapport with the agents of Citywatch and they began following her, assisted by her recognisable patterns of movement and the red coat she wore for that purpose. As Magid and Citywatch became more aware of each other, issues of trust and pitfalls in the logic of the
system also came out.
Evidence Locker consists of video installations of Citywatch’s footage as well as written correspondence and a website, which allows access to the work, however, it also contains certain
elements (such as emails sent to the website viewer unlocking further parts of the site) which control the viewer’s experience in such a way as to correspond to Magid's narrative.
As the artist wrote in 2007, “I seek intimate relationships with impersonal structures. The systems I choose to work with, such as police, secret services, CCTV and forensic identification, function at a distance, with a wide-angle perspective, equalizing everyone and erasing the individual. I seek 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 this, their potential reversibility.”
Evidence Locker is part of the permanent collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art.