Assistant Professor of Art and Luther Gregg Sullivan Fellow in Art Ilana Harris-Babou’s video project “Liquid Gold” is being screened each night now through Wednesday, May 31 on the electronic billboards of Times Square in New York City.
Over 92 digital displays spanning 41st to 49th Streets are showing the synchronized film from 11:57pm to midnight as part of Time Square Arts’ Midnight Moment program, creating a dream-like canvas filled with flowing cream-colored bubbles. Since 2012, the Times Square Alliance has showcased over 100 contemporary digital artists on a monumental public scale in the iconic urban setting.
A longer version of “Liquid Gold” was previously on display in Wesleyan’s Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery from January through March 2023, and included a sculpture in addition to the video installation. “I had such a lovely time sharing ‘Liquid Gold’ with the Wesleyan community in the Zilkha Gallery and thought I should re-edit it for the big screens,” said Harris-Babou.
The work was initially commissioned for the group show “Milk” at the Wellcome Collection in London, on display through September 10. Harris-Babou traveled to England to install the full video, “Let Down Reflex.” The “Milk” exhibition explores our relationship with human and dairy milk and its place in politics, society, and culture.
Harris-Babou’s Times Square project was curated by New York-based interdisciplinary artist Pamela Council, who was a fellow Master of Fine Arts student at Columbia University with Harris-Babou. “I’ve always really admired their work,” Harris-Babou said.
Times Square Arts approached Council to guest curate this month’s Midnight Moment in 2022. “They have a great understanding of the program,” said Jean Cooney, Director of Times Square Arts and Vice President of Arts and Culture for Times Square Alliance, about Council.
Harris-Babou’s video considers the passing down of maternal knowledge, and the invisible labor that has historically surrounded the act of breastfeeding. The work explores the ways intimate moments both inform, and are informed by, larger societal structures. By magnifying a familiar and essential substance, Harris-Babou seeks to amplify the overlooked realities of intergenerational care. She hopes showing the video in Times Square will invite the audience into a conversation around the complexity of the social economies of milk and motherhood.
Harris-Babou will have a conversation with Jennifer Nash, author of “Black Birthing Mothers” (2021), moderated by Council on Zoom on Monday, May 15 at 6pm. The talk will explore the themes behind “Liquid Gold” and the intersections within their research and practices, including Black feminist theory and Black maternal health. Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities presented a Zoom lecture by Nash in February.
Musicians Ashley Grier and Che Buford will perform in conjunction with the screening of “Liquid Gold” on Friday, May 12 at 11:30pm at Broadway and 46th Street in New York.
This summer, Harris-Babou will be working on upcoming solo projects for Candice Madey Gallery and Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York.