The Proposal | Chicago Reader

The Proposal

Questions of who can own and access another person’s artwork, literally and figuratively, as well as if art can be owned in any sense, drive conceptual artist and writer Jill Magid’s dreamlike account of artistic possession and obsession. She wants to access the professional archives of the late Mexican architect Luis Barragán for an exhibition she’s mounting, but another woman, whose husband bought the massive collection and the rights to Barragán’s work purportedly as an engagement gift for her, declines Magid’s repeated requests through honeyed letters they exchange over three years. The film itself is lush and lovingly photographed, and the premise of two women fighting for the heart of an unknowable man stirs an emotional minefield. “I imagine the archive is her lover, held tightly, to the point of being smothered,” Magid says of her rival in a measured voiceover that controls the narrative. Meanwhile, Magid sleeps in a room at Barragán’s home in Mexico that she is assured all of his girlfriends used; she finds out which cookies he liked best and consumes them. Ultimately, she makes an offer to the other woman that is, in my mind and to many others who reported on the act, insincere, self-serving, and odious. Yet this work also is a fine example of how one can dislike the filmmaker and like the film. Magid, similar to the architect she reveres, knows the power of a good story and how to poetically construct one.

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