Failed States is an exploration of coincidence, poetics, government power, and bureaucracy. On January 21, 2010, Fausto Cardenas fired six shots from a small caliber handgun into the air from the steps of the Texas State Capitol. Coincidentally, Magid was present as a witness. Charged with perpetrating a terrorist threat to a government system, Fausto’s motivations remain unknown. His case nearly came to trial numerous times only to be continuously delayed. In August 2011, Fausto took a plea bargain, ultimately silencing himself.
In Failed States, Magid draws connections between Fausto’s futile and tragic act and Goethe’s nineteenth-century epic poem, Faust. Magid mines Faust for thematic connections and develops a means of performative exhibition, treating the gallery as a stage to be read. Faust was originally written as a “closet drama” —a play to be read rather than performed, yet it is regularly seen on stage. Exhibitions of Failed States function on these dueling levels, mingling personal and public, fact and fiction, Fausto and Faust.
The project is realized through a variety of media: sculpture, text works, sound pieces, slides, photography, and with the book Failed States. Failed States is also the title of a major work of the project: a 1993 Mercedes station wagon armored to B4 level, resistant to 9mm through .44 Magnum gun fire, formerly Magid’s family car. It is an invisibly armored closet, first installed where Fausto parked his car before entering the Capitol, and later incorporated into the exhibition space.
The first iteration of Failed States was presented with the title Closet Drama at the Berkely Art Museum, Matrix program in 2011.