(2018) THE PROPOSAL
**2018 Hot Docs Film Festival- Documentary**
**Official Selection – 2018 Tribeca Film Festival**
The Proposal (2018, 83 min)
A film by Jill Magid
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 buildings’ 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.
Part thriller, part romance, The Proposal follows the making of a radical artwork that explores the contested legacy of the late Luis Barragán, Mexico’s most famous architect.
Conceptual artist Jill Magid grapples with the contested legacy of Luis Barragán, Mexico’s most famous architect. Unfolding with the suspense of thriller, The Proposal follows Magid as she develops an unorthodox project exploring the nature of artistic legacy and who ultimately controls it. As she progresses, Magid interacts with Barragán’s family, admirers, and the Swiss copyright holders who aggressively “protect” his work, in a kind of a love triangle with Barragán at the apex. Ultimately, Magid creates her own startling, provocative work that forces the viewer into reckoning with how an artist’s story is told, and who is permitted to do the telling.
The Proposal follows conceptual artist and writer Jill Magid as she develops an unorthodox project to explore artistic legacy. It takes as its subject the work of the Pritzker Prize-winning Mexican architect Luis Barragán, which is aggressively “protected” by its Swiss copyright holders, at the expense of public access. Barragán’s professional archive—including the rights to his name and work—was acquired in 1995 by Swiss furniture company Vitra, under the auspices of the Barragan Foundation. The foundation is directed by the wife of Vitra’s chairman who allegedly bought his then-fiancée the archive as an engagement gift.
The project that The Proposal documents has provoked an extended debate in Mexico on the limits of artistic freedom, and the accessibility of Barragán’s archives.
Producers: Jarred Alterman, Charlotte Cook, Laura Coxson
Executive Producer: Laura Poitras
Editor: Hannah Buck
DP: Jarred Alterman
Original Music: T. Griffin
Associate Producer: Pamela Echeverria
Consulting Editor: Nels Bangerter