On January 21, 2010, 24-year-old Fausto Cardenas fired six shots from a small caliber handgun into the air from the steps of the Texas State Capitol. Coincidentally, Jill Magid was present as a witness. Fausto's motivations still remain unknown.
Failed States is an exploration of coincidence, poetics, government power and bureaucracy. Fausto's silence lies at the heart of the installation. Charged with perpetrating a terrorist threat to a government system, his case nearly came to trial numerous times only to be continuously delayed. In August 2011, Fausto accepted 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. Although Faust was originally written as a "closet drama" —a play to be read rather than performed, it is regularly seen on stage. Similarly, the motivations behind Fausto's act are known only to him, yet they have played out on an extraordinary scale. The exhibition functions on both of these levels, mingling personal and public, fact and fiction, Fausto and Faust.
Magid extends Failed States beyond the gallery with two offsite projects. Failed States, the work from which this exhibition takes its names, was Magid's family car. The artist had her 1993 Mercedes station wagon armored to B4 level, resistant to 9mm through .44 Magnum gun fire. The car is an invisibly armored closet, installed where Fausto parked his car before approaching the Capitol. Magid also published a work in the February issue of the political magazine Texas Observer, further extending her reach into the domestic spaces of subscribers.
The Capitol Shooter: Breaking news. 9:16 min. Edited by Jill Magid. 2011-12.