Finishing a Raw Basement

Artist: Ilana Harris-Babou
video | Ultra-high-definition video, color, sound | 06:41 | 2017

In her three videos presented in the Biennial, Ilana Harris-Babou uses humor and the language of advertising to draw attention to the ways in which high-end home furnishing brands often gloss over histories of oppression and inequality in the United States. Reparation Hardware combines an absurdist tutorial with a proposal for economic reparations to African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved. Red Sourcebook juxtaposes imagery and text from Restoration Hardware catalogues with manuals on redlining, the discriminatory mortgage lending practice that effectively prevented many African Americans from buying homes. Human Design was filmed at RH New York—an expansive showroom operated by Restoration Hardware in the Meatpacking District, just a few blocks from the Whitney—as well as in Mexico and Senegal. Harris-Babou plays the role of a corporate “team member” who, like an explorer, “discovers” the fictional origins of featured objects, highlighting Restoration Hardware’s romanticized heirloom aesthetics. (Image courtesy the artist)


Whitney Biennial 2019 | 2019.05.17 - 2019.09.22 | Whitney Museum of American Art(New York City, NY, United States)