By Design brings together the work of three artists working across sculpture and video, who call attention to the ways in which aesthetic preference, contemporary design, and taste are inextricable from histories of oppression and methods of control. In the works on view, shape, color, and texture are revealed as the sinister attendants of hegemonic culture. The aesthetics of our built environment do not simply order the movement of our bodies but also the structure of our thoughts, shaping our perceptions of ourselves and others.
In these works, design objects made to augment the body relinquish their usefulness while simultaneously adopting corporeal and tactile characteristics. Rather than an implied absence, the qualities of the body become the very material of the work. Ilana Harris-Babou, Sophie Hirsch, and Sam Stewart upend our expectations of the objects around us and reveal the politicality present in even the most seemingly benign aesthetic choices.
In her video Reparation Hardware, Ilana Harris-Babou explores how refurbishing antiques acts as a means of rewriting and beautifying America’s racial history. Sophie Hirsch retools exercise machines to investigate power and control in relationship to the body. Sam Stewart unifies discordant design aesthetics, such as folky maple furniture and vinyl covering, to plunge their psychological resonances and domestic mythologies.