Liquid Gold

Ilana Harris-Babou

Wellcome Collection

Curated by Pamela Council

Live Performance by Ashley Grier & Che Buford
Friday, May 12, 11:30pm – 12am | Duffy Square, Broadway & 46th St

Enjoy a special presentation of Liquid Gold with live music and lullaby-inspired sounds by vocalist Ashley Grier and violinist Che Buford. The night will culminate with a presentation of Liquid Gold synchronized across 90+ surrounding billboards from 11:57pm to midnight. Dress code is cozy — loungewear encouraged!

Virtual Artist Talk with Ilana Harris-Babou & Dr. Jennifer Nash
Monday, May 15, 6pm

Join May’s Midnight Moment artist Ilana Harris-Babou in conversation with scholar and award-winning author Dr. Jennifer Nash. In this virtual talk moderated by artist and guest curator Pamela Council, Harris-Babou and Dr. Nash will explore the themes behind Liquid Gold and the intersections within their research and practices, including Black feminist theory, Black maternal health and Black mothers’ experiences.

Register on Zoom

This May, frothy milk takes over the screens of Times Square. In her work Liquid Gold, Ilana Harris-Babou considers the passing down of maternal knowledge and the invisible labor that has historically surrounded the act of breastfeeding, and transforms the media architecture of Times Square into an immersive, dream-like canvas filled with flowing cream-colored bubbles.

The inspiration behind the close-cropped, slow-moving sequences of milk and baby formula ingredients came from conversations with the artist’s family members chronicling both the challenging and empowering experience of motherhood as Black women. Exploring the unique position milk holds within broader global politics and culture, Liquid Gold also invites conversations around the complexity of a seemingly everyday substance and the social economies of milk and motherhood. Accompanying the work is a soundtrack by the British-Irish composer Anna Clock referencing All the Pretty Little Horses, a lullaby believed to have been sung by enslaved African-American mothers to their children.

"The video explores the ways intimate moments both inform, and are informed by, larger societal structures. By magnifying a familiar and essential substance, I seek to amplify the overlooked realities of intergenerational care. Showing the video at a large scale in Times Square will invite an even broader audience into the conversation. I hope folks will bring their own memories and associations when experiencing the work.”
— Ilana Harris-Babou

A longer version of the video was commissioned for the forthcoming exhibition Milk at Wellcome Collection in London, UK, exploring our relationship with human and dairy milk and its place in politics, society and culture. On view from March 30 to September 10, 2023, the free exhibition features over 100 items including historical objects, artworks, and new commissions.

Harris-Babou’s Midnight Moment presentation is curated by Pamela Council, an alum of the Midnight Moment program and the artist behind the Times Square Arts 2021 commission A Fountain for Survivors.

Ilana Harris-Babou is an interdisciplinary artist whose work spans sculpture and installation and video, and examines the ways we find community and identity in everyday objects. She has presented solo exhibitions of her work internationally. Institutions include: The Highline, NY (2022),  Artspace, New Haven, CT (2022); Kunsthaus Hamburg, Germany (2021); ICA Chattanooga, TN (2021); and The Museum of Arts and Design, NY (2017). Her work has been featured in group exhibitions including 52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT (2022);  the Istanbul Design Biennial, Turkey (2020);  and the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY (2019).

Pamela Council is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist creating fountains for Black joy. Guided by material, cultural, and metaphysical quests, Council’s practice embodies a darkly humorous, maximalist, and inventive Afro-Americana camp aesthetic called BLAXIDERMY. Through this lens, Council uses sculpture, print, design, architecture, writing, and performance to shed light on under-examined narratives and to make tributes, offerings, and dedications.

Council has created commissions, exhibitions, performances, or presentations for Times Square Arts, the New Museum for Contemporary Art, United States Library of Congress, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Studio Museum in Harlem, Nike, and MoCADA. Council has been Artist-in-Residence at MacDowell Colony, ISCP, Red Bull Arts, Bemis Center, Mass MoCA, and Wassaic Project. A recipient of the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant, Toby Devan Lewis Award, and Newark Creative Catalyst Award as a studio member of Project for Empty Space, Council holds a BA from Williams College and an MFA from Columbia University.

Wellcome Collection is a free museum exploring health and human experience. Its mission is to challenge how we all think and feel about health by connecting science, medicine, life and art. It offers a changing programme of curated exhibitions, museum and library collections, public events, in addition to a café. Wellcome Collection publishes books on what it means to be human, and collaborates widely to reach broad and diverse audiences, locally and globally.

Wellcome Collection is part of Wellcome, which supports science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. They support discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, and they’re taking on three worldwide health challenges: mental health, infectious disease, and climate and health.

Midnight Moment is made possible by the Times Square Advertising Coalition, ABC SuperSign, American Eagle, Branded Cities, Clear Channel, Disney Store, Express, Levi's, LG, Luxottica Group S.p.A., Morgan Stanley, Microsoft, New Tradition, Sensory Interactive, Sephora, Sherwood Equities, Show + Tell, Silvercast, Swatch, T-Mobile, and JCDecaux.

Major support of Times Square Arts is provided by Morgan Stanley. Additional program support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature; and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional support for Midnight Moment is provided by Meta Open Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Times Square Advertising Coalition.

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Photos by Michael Hull.