During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jill Magid interceded in the U.S. economy with Tender, a wide-scale, nearly invisible, public artwork commissioned by Creative Time. A dispersed monument spread discretely across the country, Tender consists of 120,000 newly-minted 2020 pennies edge-engraved with the appropriated phrase, “THE BODY WAS ALREADY SO FRAGILE,” and entered into the U.S. economy via cash-in-transit carriers to bodegas throughout the five boroughs of New York. The text evokes both the human body and the body politic – and underscores their interconnection during the coronavirus pandemic. The engraving intervenes between the official iconography of the coins' faces: the heads showing the bust of President Abraham Lincoln; the tails representing Lincoln's preservation of the United States as a single country. The number of Tender pennies is equal to the $1200 stimulus checks that were issued to individuals by the U.S. Treasury as part of the CARES Act. The dissemination of the coins echoes the spread of viral pathogens such as COVID-19.
As the U.S. government uses metaphors of American power fighting the virus as a war waged against an “invisible enemy,” the project speaks to human vulnerability and the effects of the virus on both a personal and national scale. In this time of global political and social uncertainty, during which COVID-19 denies us all intimacy and direct exchange, Tender offers an opportunity to take pause and reflect on the permeability of borders, value, and intimacy.
Tender: Balance – an exhibition at The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago.