Ilana Harris-Babou interviewed in Burnaway

Posted on September 16, 2021

Courtney McClellan interviews Notes for Tomorrow artist Ilana Harris-Babou on the occasion of Ilana Harris-Babou: Tasteful Interiors at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

CM: Like the balance of curiosity and critique during production, the tone of the work is complex. In Decision Fatigue (2020) your mother, who is your frequent collaborator and subject, talks about the pain of breastfeeding and then in the next clip offers a recipe for a Cheetos face mask. You say you use “humor and familiar digital forms as a Trojan horse to get heavier materials into people’s line of sight”. Can you talk about this strategy?

IH-B: I think video as a medium is a space that allowed artists to put their work in conversation with popular culture. It’s a medium that lives. And at first, getting access to it was by going to public access TV stations. It never pretended to exist outside of our everyday world. It always had a foot out the door of the studio and into the world of entertainment.

The most natural thing when I started using video was to frame these moments that were happening in the studio. Then I thought, how am I going to share my videos with others? I was streaming YouTube, and so I think it’s a way for the material that I’m thinking about to enter my own life and studio. Whether it’s me looking at weird mommy blogs and thinking about how breastfeeding is romanticized, and then thinking about how that goes on in my own life, or in those ways of relating to a body. So, then I take a viewer along that journey with me and go from something seeming familiar and safe, to some kind of grand narrative seeming authentic, to realizing that it’s actually totally weird.

You can read the full interview here.

Image credit: Ilana Harris-Babou, Decision Fatigue, 2020, HD video. Collection of the artist.


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