Reparation Hardware features two, single channel videos and a mixed media installation that explore our romantic impulse to refurbish antiques and to write who we will become by editing who we were. In Reparation Hardware, Harris-Babou turns the advertisements of the sleek home-goods brand, Restoration Hardware, on their head. Echoing the company’s intimate, inspirational collection videos, Reparation Hardware (4 min) functions as part parody, part furniture restoration tutorial, and offers a proposal for the delivery of reparations to African-Americans.
Harris-Babou draws on the language of Reconstruction era field orders, Marcus Garvey writings, and testimonies of 19th century black homesteaders to explore our fascination with attempting to redraw history through the lens of refurbished antiques. In the words of the artist:
“We shape our identities through the items we choose to keep around us. We rewrite history on our hardwood tables. Home decor corrals time. We can conjure a perfect past and fold it into an aspirational future. What makes the idea of reparations so terrifying? The notion is like a can of worms resting on the granite countertop. The promise of Reparations acknowledges failure. It’s an admission of guilt; that something needs to be fixed. When a nation’s foundations are crumbling, everything placed atop them is precarious. The restoration of old furniture takes something stale and makes it sleek. The reparation of lost wealth takes the smooth, seamless inevitability of the American Dream and makes it rusty.”
Harris-Babou’s installation parallel’s the ‘timeless’ housewares available to customers at a typical Restoration Hardware store, where customers can all buy brand-new family heirlooms. In her video tutorial, she shares with the viewer her failed attempts to restore housewares into industrial-chic heirlooms. Set in the present, the artist implicates the viewer in her on-screen process, emphasizing our shared failures, “the present moment is when failure is possible. The American Dream must not be tainted by the present tense. The Dream exists between an ideal future and a romantic past.”