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Mona Hatoum February 20, 2010

Posted by leskanturek in 3-D work, Student Blog posts, Surreal.
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Post by Leila Ehtesham

Mona Hatoum is a Lebanese artist of Palestinian origin. She has spent much of her career living in London and, more recently, Berlin.  Hatoum works primarily with installations and video.

I first came across the work of Mona Hatoum about three years ago.  I didn’t know what to think of this artist who weaved Palestinian keffieh scarves from human hair, constructed welcome mats from needles or privacy screens  from giant cheese graters.   Hatoum’s work  made me a little uncomfortable,  it also made me curious. What is it about her pieces that make them seem all at once familiar yet foreign, personal yet clinical and minimalist, somber but still humorous?  She takes the everyday and transforms it into a surrealist dream. In a interview with the BBC’s John Tusa, Hatoum said of her own work: “I’m trying to make people question what they’re looking at, walk away with more questions than answers, complicate things so that it becomes a kind of one, challenging one’s assumptions about the world” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/johntusainterview/hatoum_transcript.shtml). I would agree that Mona Hatoum does just that: generates questions. You want to comprehend on an intellectual level what you already sense on an emotional one.

Although I found no overt mention of politics in my research, I do get the impression that Hatoum’s work reflects something of the Middle East, particularly Palestinian solidarity. The Kufiya has become a symbol of this in the Arab world, and the fact that she chose to weave the scarf from human hair seems to represent a personal sense of loss. The objects she uses in her pieces are largely household ones, and that she takes something like a sharp kitchen appliance or needle and juxtaposes it with something typically comforting like a bed implies a hostel force within day to day life. This is what I imagine when I think of people living in areas that are rocked by political and social divide, as is the case with the Israelis and Palestinians. Other artists have created or altered  objects into conceptual art, Marcel  Duchamp’s  readymades for example.  Because I get the impression of socio-political aim in Hatoum’s work, I don’t see too many ties with Duchamp’s Fountain/Urinal for instance, which I view more as having a comic motive rather than political.

Love it or hate it, the one thing I can say about Hatoum’s work with absolute conviction is that it’s memorable.

Web Bed (2002)

Pull (1995)

Keffieh (1993-1999)

The Grater Divide (2002)

Traffic (2002)

All work © Mona Hatoum

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