Proposal

A thoughtful, elegantly hypnotic exploration of ownership, access, and moral responsibility.

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The Proposal

Known as “the artist among architects,” Luis Barragán is among the world’s most celebrated architects of the 20th century. Upon his death in 1988, much of his work was locked away in a Swiss bunker, hidden from the world. In an attempt to resurrect Barragán’s life and art, boundary-redefining artist Jill Magid creates a daring proposition that becomes a fascinating artwork in itself—a high-wire act of negotiation that explores how far an artist will go to democratize access to art.

Jill Magid/Director's Statement:

As a visual artist and writer, I use my work to create new perspectives to long-established structures of power in society.

During the past eighteen years, I’ve trained as a spy, a police officer, and as a war journalist. Gaining access to power systems takes research, trust, and a series of unorthodox requests, requiring constant negotiation. From the inside, I engage these systems in personal dialogue. From there, I’m able to raise questions and concerns on how we live in relation to them.

THE PROPOSAL is my first feature film and the last chapter of a larger project I began in 2013 called The Barragán Archives. The project explores the contested legacy of Luis Barragán, Mexico’s most famous architect, and how his legacy is affected by the fact that a private corporation, Vitra, owns his archives and controls the rights in his name and work. For more than twenty years, this corporation has made his work largely inaccessible to the public. The film questions whether a single actor should be exclusively in control of how the world can engage with Barragán’s work.

As the film’s protagonist, I am aware that I am entering a story that has not previously involved me, and that my presence could affect its future, or a retelling of the past. I believe that it is crucial to discuss how artistic legacy is constructed, shaped, and manipulated. Does allowing the public to engage with an artwork in various ways and from multiple perspectives threaten its integrity, or make it more integral to society over time?

Almost as an invitation for image-making, Barragán was known to adjust a building’s design so that it would photograph better. With this film, I wanted to capture the overwhelming beauty of his work while simultaneously questioning the legal challenges one faces to do so. The film is in itself a proposal: A way to elicit dialogue about access to legacy and its proprietary nature, and not simply if the proposal will be accepted.

Intertwined with these pressing social questions is a quieter rumination on mortality and the relationship of the artist’s body to his or her body of work. Mortality permeates, in the aging of the architecture and within the intimate presence of three generations of the Barragán family. I wanted to present legacy as something potentially alive, and full of possibility. Transforming ashes into a diamond is an expression of possibility.

My work has long provoked questions about access to power and power relations, in a similar realm as the work of Adrian Piper, Tanya Bruguera, Trevor Paglen, and The Yes Men.

“A thoughtful, elegantly hypnotic exploration of ownership, access, and moral responsibility. “A multi-layered and thought-provoking work of art.”

“Magid’s inspired response to a complex situation makes for an intriguing and approachable film.”

—Allan Hunter, SCREEN INTERNATIONAL

“The documentary doesn’t bring closure to her fight for Barragán’s archive, but it will work its way under a viewer’s skin and leave them with persistent ideas to consider.”

—Dan Schindel, HYPERALLERGIC

With its measured pacing and haunting ambience, Magid’s hypnotic film is an engaging examination of artistry, diplomacy, and posterity at a crossroads.”

—Manuel Betancourt, REMEZCLA

“Beguiling. An unforgettable consideration of who should have ownership of an artist’s legacy.”

—Stephen Saito, MOVEABLE FEST

“Magid disarms with her intimate use of her voice, relaying her correspondence with Zanco where her earnest requests are met with gently condescending responses, bringing a knowing grin to anyone who’s had to deal with a bureaucracy operating with empty diplomacy to avoid true interaction, and when combined with the slight sense of aesthetic abstraction, she gorgeously conveys the inherently personal nature of her quest and the sense that what she’s after is far more intangible than just some boxes of photographs and drawings. However, even if it’s the fear of being forgotten that drives her, she’s made a film in THE PROPOSAL that’s impossible to shake.”

—Stephen Saito, MOVEABLE FEST
Genre
Documentary, Women and Film, Art & Artists
Runtime
83
Language
English
Director
Jill Magid
FEATURED REVIEW
Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times

“The Proposal,” Jill Magid’s captivatingly wily documentary about her attempt to liberate the archives of the renowned Mexican architect Luis Barragán, wears many faces. Detailing at once an art project and a rescue mission, a love triangle and an elaborate, outlandish bargain, the movie has a ...

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