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About Society: Mona Hatoum.

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1 About Society: Mona Hatoum

2 Mona Hatoum 5W1H WHEN Born in 1952 Beirut, Lebanon HOW Uses ‘assisted
readymades’ WHERE Lives & works in London Mona Hatoum WHY Sense of exile, displacement dislocation, loss WHICH Feminism, Minimalism, Conceptual art WHAT Performance art, Installations Video art

3 exile – • noun 1) the state of being barred from one’s native country. 2) a person who lives in exile. • verb expel and bar (someone) from their native country. — ORIGIN Latin exilium ‘banishment’. displacement • noun 1) the action or process of displacing. 2) the amount by which a thing is moved from a position. 3) the volume or weight of water displaced by a floating ship, used as a measure of the ship’s size. 4) Psychoanalysis the unconscious transfer of an intense emotion from one object to another.

4 Summary Mona Hatoum is an installation artist who focuses on usually large scale art works. She & her family were forced into exile in London when civil war broke out at her home in Lebanon in 1975. It was a painful experience for her as she was separated from her loved ones. Subsequently, her work constantly sought answers through questioning about different types of exile. One such exile is women’s permanent state of exile. They essentially exist in a culture and language that they have not played a role in shaping. Others, because of their sexual orientation, colour or cultural background, is seen as literally or metaphorically in a similar state of exile.

5 Summary In her earlier stages, she also explored video art. She usually uses relatively common found domestic objects. Most often, in her artworks, visual ironies are easily spotted. She interestingly uses materials which usually convey contrasting messages to the intended message, thus challenging the convention. Through the effective use of visual ironies causes her works to be able to evoke conflicting emotions in the viewers. The success of the contrast shown is the result of choosing themes and images that are familiar to most people, but rendered in materials they are not usually made of.

6 Subject Matter Confrontational themes
- Violence - Exile - Oppression - Voyeurism (noun 1 a person who gains sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity. 2) a person who enjoys seeing the pain or distress of others.    — DERIVATIVES voyeurism noun voyeuristic adjective voyeuristically adverb.  — ORIGIN French, from voir ‘see’.) - Vulnerability & resistance of the human bodies - The power structure of race, gender (feminism), class, cultural difference. - Runs parallel to the work of the Surrealists who also explore the transformation from the familiar becoming familiar. Hatoum takes on similar strategies as the Surrealists when making artworks.

7 Background influences / context
Born in Lebanon, of Palestine origin In 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon, she and her family were forced into exile in London. Context shifted towards contemporary Western Art.

8 Message Invites viewers to experience cultural intersections that link our identities with our physical and perceptual surroundings. An inclination towards ambiguity and contradiction. Aims to engage viewers in contrasting emotions: Desire & revulsion / Fear & fascination.

9 “I dislike interviews. I'm often asked the same question: What in your work comes from your own culture? As if I have a recipe and I can actually isolate the Arab ingredient, the woman ingredient, the Palestinian ingredient. People often expect tidy definitions of otherness, as if identity is something fixed and easily definable.” - Interview with Mona Hatoum BOMB, NEW YORK, SPRING 1998 ISSUE 63

10 Can you “pigeon-hole” a person’s identity?
Inconsistencies in representation of identity. “Lebanese-born artist, Mona Hatoum"; “Hatoum was born into a family of Palestinian refugees"; “Mona Hatoum is a woman, a Palestinian, a native of Beirut..." Can you “pigeon-hole” a person’s identity?

11 “There is no single interpretation, which is why I always find it problematic when museums and galleries want to put up an explanatory text on the wall. It fixes the meaning and limits the reading of the work and doesn't allow the viewer to have this very expansive imaginative interpretation of their own which reflects on their experience.” - Interview with Mona Hatoum BOMB, NEW YORK, SPRING 1998 ISSUE 63

12 Her Works Mona Hatoum first became known for performance and video works that involved a quality of ordeal or actual danger, and that sometimes more or less plainly examined the quality of lives permeated by war, as in the Middle East.

13 Sculptures When she began making sculpture, often adapting the Minimalism that she had absorbed as a London art student, Hatoum retained her feeling for the physical vulnerability of the human body. Hatoum uses the 'assisted readymades’. She minimally alters everyday objects or reproduces them in unlikely materials

14 + and -, 1994-2004. Sand , steel, aluminium, and electric motor,
27 cm high x 400.1cm diameter. Promised gift of Jerry Speyer and purchase

15 Gallery label text Out of Time: A Contemporary View, August 30, 2006–April 9, 2007
This work is a large-scale re-creation of the kinetic sculpture Self-Erasing Drawing Hatoum made in 1979. Replacing conventional artists’ tools (pencil and paper, paint and canvas) with a motorized, toothed metal arm and a circular bed of sand, Hatoum mechanizes the practices of mark-making and erasure. At a rate of five rotations per minute, the sculpture's hypnotic and continual grooving and smoothing of sand evokes polarities of building and destroying, existence and disappearance, displacement and migration.

16 Silence, 1994 Glass, 126.6 x 93.7 x 58.7 cm, Museum of Modern Art

17 Silence, a crib that would threaten the child it protected: any slight shock and the baby would lie in broken glass. Ethereally translucent and delicate, an empty cage, Silence is a whole that implies its own destruction into fragments, and an ear–shattering crash—the antithesis of the work's title. There is also a resonance of the hospital (subject of other art by Hatoum), in that the glass comes in the form of tubing, evoking medical paraphernalia, and also the body's circulatory system; but once again, the idea that this rigid, frighteningly brittle structure—ungainly on its tall and narrow legs, and made of the most fragile material—should be associated with the tender human shell creates a sense of dread. Whatever the associations of Silence, they seem to share this threatening unease. Publication excerpt: The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 347

18 The bare metal bars of this child’s cot resemble those of a prison cell, while the springs have been replaced by taut cheese wires. Hatoum has transformed a symbol of comfort and care into a claustrophobic space suggesting a place of incarceration and torture. The sculpture evokes themes of child abuse, as well as the suffering experienced by political prisoners.  (From the display caption March Tate Modern) Incommunicado, 1993 Metal cot and wire, 1264 x 575 x 935 mm

19 Incommunicado is a sculpture made of an altered infant's cot.
The springs have been replaced by tautly stretched, fine cheese wires. Here the grid is suggested by the cold, hard, metal form of the cot which, unpainted and unpadded, has been honed down to its most bare and chilling structure. The potentially lethal wires anticipate acute pain and, in this context, the sadistic violence of a parental torturer. The title, which suggests a place where speech is no longer possible, is echoed in a work Hatoum made the following year titled Silence, a cot made of glass tubing. Incommunicado offers a reminder of an infant's inability to articulate its needs by any means other than a scream, one which, in this scenario, presumably falls on deaf ears. It provides a metaphor for the plight of many political prisoners who are incarcerated and tortured in places where their voices cannot be heard. Here a relationship of 'parent' state to citizen-'child' is presented as cruel and abusive rather than warm and loving, murderous rather than nurturing, the terrifying perversion of many modern Third World democracies. Hatoum has said: 'I see furniture as being very much about the body. It is usually about giving it support and comfort. I made a series of furniture pieces which are more hostile than comforting.' (Quoted in Mona Hatoum 1997, p.20.) Untitled (Wheelchair) 1998.

20 Divan Bed  1996 Steel object: 595 x 1915 x 770 mm, 320kg

21 Divan Bed, 1996 The bed is no longer somewhere for rest or privacy in this sculpture. Hatoum has precisely reproduced the form of a single bed so that the top surface swells along the edges like a soft mattress. But any suggestion of comfort is denied by the steel plate material she has chosen, more usually associated with industrial architecture or military defences. The textured metal would leave an imprint on the flesh of anyone lying on the divan. This relates to Hatoum’s earlier performance and video work exploring forms of physical and political oppression.

22 glass bottles, 14.5 x 300 cm diameter
Drowning sorrows, 2002 glass bottles, 14.5 x 300 cm diameter Edition of 3

23 mild steel, 343 x 575 x 263 cm / each disc: 5 x 170 cm
French kitchen devices for slicing or shredding vegetables Mouli-Julienne x 17, 1999 mild steel, 343 x 575 x 263 cm / each disc: 5 x 170 cm Edition of 2

24 mild steel, 204 x 3.5 cm, Edition of 3
Grater divide (2002) or Cage-à-deux (2002) bring everyday objects such as a vegetable cutter, grater or birdcage into a sphere of danger, confinement and torture, with their extreme scale adding to the uncanniness of the work. Grater Divide, 2002 mild steel, 204 x 3.5 cm, Edition of 3

25 Marble slicer, 2002 Marble and stainless steel 103 x 93 x 116 cm

26 Installations Since the early 1990s Hatoum has been producing large installations which succeed in arousing in the viewer contradictory feelings of attraction and repulsion, fear and fascination. Light Sentence, Corps étranger, Quarters, Homebound are some of her most ambitious installations and are included in this exhibition. These key works combine performative and interactive approaches of her early years with a formal language that derives its vocabulary from minimalist sculpture and conceptual art, which at the same time is charged with personal and political content.

27 Light Sentence, 1992 Light sentence (1992) forms a space which constantly changes as a light moves up and down, casting shifting shadows from steel lockers onto the surfaces of a room.

28 The movement of the light bulb causes the shadows of the wire mesh lockers to be in perpetual motion, which creates a very unsettling feeling. When you enter the space you have the impression that the whole room is swaying and you have the disturbing feeling that the ground is shifting under your feet. This is an environment in constant flux — no single point of view, no solid frame of reference. There is a sense of instability and restlessness in the work. This is the way in which the work is informed by my background.

29 When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, Mona Hatoum responded to the conflict with a performance piece entitled ‘The Negotiating Table’. As in many early works, Hatoum used her body to explore universal notions of violence, oppression, confinement and displacement. She lay curled on a table for several hours, blindfolded and enclosed in a body bag covered with entrails, blood and bandages. The table, illuminated by a single bulb, was flanked by 2 empty chairs; the silence of the interrogation room jarringly punctuated by news reports of the war and leaders in peace negotiations.

30 Light at the end, 2002

31 A single color can have multiple and shifting meanings.
Hatoum uses color to emphasised the intensity of her experiences and to suggest wider political meanings beyond her personal experiences. The installation Light at the End (2002) consists of an iron metal frame and five electric elements. It represents a dark tunnel with red, orange and yellow light at the end. This colored light seduces the spectator, as it appears warm and appealing, in contrast to the hostile darkness of the tunnel. However, the seductive color is a trap. Only when the spectator moves closer does the colored light reveal its real character as electric and dangerous. The warmness of red is transformed into the violent redness of blood. The installation is a reflection of both Hatoum’s personal experience and a more universal experience of living in exile. Hatoum’s Palestinian parents had been forced to live in exile by the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 1975, war broke out in Lebanon and Hatoum, on a visit to London, found herself exiled in the United Kingdom, unable to return to her home country. In Light at the End, the multiple meanings of red, orange and yellow light that contrast with the darkness of the tunnel refer to the appeal of the home country and Hatoum’s experience of living in exile, addressing the violent character and the instability of separation.

32 Cage-à-deux, 2002 Mild steel and painted MDF 201.5 x 315 x 199.5 cm

33 Cage-à-Deux (2002) is a monumental steel cage, scaled up from its original prototype --a rodent cage-- by seven times to become human in scale. Originally designed to house two animals, Hatoum's cage, with its human proportions, could refer to the couple as the nuclear basis of society. Sinister in its connotations, however, the cage's twin-feeding basins and the bars of the cage also refer to incarceration, and to histories of political repression and violence. Cage-à-deux, 2002 (detail) Mild steel and painted MDF x 315 x cm

34 The Mexican Cage, The friendly colors of the cage work in contrast with the unfriendly nature of the cage. Hatoum’s The Mexican Cage (2002) represents a colorful birdcage. The work suggests a metaphoric connection between a caged canary and the life of a Mexican factory worker. How does The Mexican Cage suggest tension? Do you think that the “friendly colors” of the work contrast with the object that is an “unfriendly” cage?

35 Every door a wall takes the form of a curtain displayed in a doorway
Every door a wall takes the form of a curtain displayed in a doorway. The flexibility and openness of the curtained doorway contrasts with its silk-screened image of a truck filled with smuggled humans. Hung in a corridor, where the work and the information it contains can be easily 'pushed aside' by the visitor, it illustrates the extinction of these figures, captured by an eyeless, technically invasive gaze and reduced to schematic negatives, before they are forcibly deported to their mandatory homeland. Every door of a wall, 2003 Inkjet print on voile 200 cm wide

36 Works using the body

37 Photograph on paper image 600 x 403 mm on paper, print
Van Gogh's Back, 1995 Photograph on paper image 600 x 403 mm on paper, print This work consists of a photograph of a man's hirsute back, the hair soaped and wetted and swirled into patterns which suggest the brushstrokes in Van Gogh's paintings. The traces of massage, registering care and perhaps passion, underline the sensual qualities in the picture. Hatoum frequently includes photographic elements in her work. In the 1980s she produced a number of video and performance pieces. Several of her major installation and performance works involved her own hair, used to register pain and vulnerability. In exploring the relationship between private and public lives, she often focuses on the body and physical and mental suffering. In the 1990s, however, she has made a number of pieces demonstrating a lighter side to her work, finding ironical or natural humour in areas connected with more serious concerns. Further reading: Mona Hatoum, exhibition catalogue, Arnolfini, Bristol 1993

38 Measure of distance, 1998 Video, 15 mins Part 1
Part 2

39 For the exiled the measure of distance is always in relation to their origin; what remains there and what is lost. In 1988 Hatoum explored the painful reality of distance in a video work entitled Measures of distance. During a visit to Lebanon in 1981 she recorded conversations with, and footage of, her mother. She layered the imagery of her naked mother in the shower with letters sent to the artist in Arabic, while Hatoum read the words aloud in English. This was further interwoven with segments of their conversations. The result is a narrative of Hatoum’s life as an exile that attempts to recall the intimacy of a relationship, memories faded by time and distance, and failed attempts to recapture the physicality of a kiss or the touch of a body. This videotape is perhaps the most touching of Mona Hatoum’s artistic statement in which she examines her position as an exiled female artist. The author’s voice translates letters of her mother from Arab into English, represented visually as a texture of calligraphy over the texture of her body and skin. Measuring a multitude of distances/oppositions or differences between home and exile, writing and reading, reading and translating, mother and daughter, autobiography and artistic invention.

40 References Mona Hatoum, major survey including new work 6 March – 31 May ltbau | Kuppel and Gallery of Contemporary Art Source: White Cube Gallery, Mona Hatoum Source: Implicating the audience in exile Source: You can also find more information about her works from the Tate Modern website:

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