Jill Magi presenting at the 2013 University at Albany English Grad Student Organization Annual Conference:
By way of an introduction to Jill Magi’s work, we include here an excerpt from Sarah Giragosian’s opening remarks prior to Magi’s presentation at SUNY Albany’s 2013 Graduate Student Conference:
Jill Magi’s work has found a good home in Barzakh, SUNY-Albany’s student-run multi-genre journal. Her work challenges the hegemony of environmentalism, with its myopic single-issue politics, and argues for a broader, systemic investigation of the ways in which labor, class, gender, race, and similar cultural categories relate to institutions of power that contribute to the devastation of the eco. She defines an ecopolitics as a position of resistance to the institutions that perpetuate power at the expense of ethnic and racial minorities, laboring bodies, and vulnerable life forms. As she reminds us, global warming is also a social issue; it intersects with issues of oppression and the exploitation and displacement of peoples. Art, however, can be a mode of intervention. It is political, according to Magi, by virtue of its inherently relational cast, as the conjunction of action and reflection.
In her recently published SLOT, for example, her collection of photos, bibliographies, poetries, documentary narratives, and letters, she draws upon the potentialities of hybridity to make legible our interpolation within social systems. Hybridity enables us to access codes of behavior and the structures of interpretation and meaning-making. To authorize the self and to enter into dialogic relations with the reader and with the text, Magi brings together various discourses to open up a field of possibility and agency. SLOT, a term that connotes narrowness and categorization, is a critique of the monumentalizing practices of the state and a search for more meaningful, less imperializing forms of cultural memory. An anti-monumental poetics, her poems wander through museums and exhibitions and ultimately explore the subjectivity of the tourist in pursuit of a language, an ecosystem, and a representative and mnemonic mode that is not at the service of the state. There is no “outside,” of course; we are all hailed or recruited by the state. And yet where there is the touch of the state—in the form of the monument or the exhibition—there is also, in Magi’s words, “the touch” of words and of the wind. She recalls us to our mutual condition of embodiment, and the vital connection between affect and place. SLOT is a record of this engagement, even “while the world is made by debris, around a table,” and while “the cast-off grows, the cinders—“ (127).