80 Washington Square East, NYU

Ilana Harris-Babou

Clean Lines

May 22 – September 6, 2019

Broadway Windows

This site-specific installation extends Harris-Babou’s previous video work, Red Sourcebook (2018), which depicts the artist flipping silently through the pages of an outdoor design catalogue and marking them in red. The images are subtitled with quotes from the promotional brochure merged with sections from the 1936 Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Underwriting Manual. Through this collage, the artist produces a hybrid narrative, the source and goal of which are ambiguous and troubling.  

For the Broadway Windows, Harris-Babou expands on the visual and textual tactics of Red Sourcebook to activate the surfaces and depths of the vitrine display, and engage with its situation in downtown Manhattan. Comprised of videos, prints, and writings, the installation includes new and existing footage of home furniture design catalogues and a compilation of texts and maps from urban surveys and acts. 

Here, the artist uses historical and official documents to draw an explicit link between the gesture of marking in red and the discriminatory practice of redlining, which started in 1934 with the founding of the FHA and the development of urban federal policies. Starting in the 1930’s, targeted neighborhoods – typically those of low-income and racial minorities – were geographically demarcated on city maps, delineated in red, to prevent financial investment in the area. The insertion of these contour lines at once highlighted and diverted attention from these inner-city minority neighborhoods, ultimately accelerating their decay.
A multilayered installation, Clean Lines combines and connects the sleek lines and aspirational rhetoric of design advertising with the history of redlining. The result is a dark and haunting parody of luxury design culture and real estate development that foregrounds the exclusionary policies that continue to sustain these industries in the present.

Curated by second-year graduate students at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College: Eugenia Delfini, Zhenting Feng, Dain Oh, Zane Onckule, Julia Eilers Smith, Mathilde Walker-Billaud, and Jinglun Zhu.

The corner of a building with six windows seen from street-level. People walk in front of ground floor windows filled with various things against red backgrounds.
A television monitor hangs against a red background.
A display reading the words "Sound standards meet an almost obsessive attention to quality." hangs against a red background.
Text reading "Ask yourself: are the lines pleasing? Can you see yourself here?" is visible against a red background.
A television monitor displaying a red pen crossing out text on a piece of paper hangs against a red background.
A television monitor displaying the text "The whole is greater" hangs against a red background.
A television monitor displaying the text "than the sum of its parts." hangs against a red background.
Photographs by Carter Seddon
Clean Lines