Tag Archives: Mona Hatoum

Exhibition visit: Mona Hatoum at the Tate Modern

Mona Hatoum Tate-1

Mona Hatoum Measures of Distance (1988)

I am interested in gaining exposure to a wider spectrum of art works beyond pure photography to further develop my creative awareness and process of research. I believe that seeing art from other mediums and experiencing how they communicate is a great way to explore different ideas of which will become invaluable to my own knowledge and research practice.

Mona Hatoum was born to Palestinian parents, exiled British passport holders living in Beirut. She came to live in London on her own during her early 20s after civil war had broken out in Lebanon. Here she carved out a new life for herself enrolling in art school.

Much of the work of this internationally renowned artist is influenced by her personal experiences and by the turmoil experienced by her parents and homeland. There are also universal themes allowing the viewer to participate and interpret the work from their perspective.

Mona Hatoum says “I want the work in the first instance to have a strong formal presence, and through the physical experience to activate a psychological and emotional response.”

One of the works that stood out for myself were a video document called Don’t Smile, you’re on camera! (1980). Using a studio audience and models who were charged with following individuals with video cameras the effect was to create a sense that the individuals were being monitored against their own free will. For myself the emotional response was to sense how it might feel for those people to be monitored, controlled or even detained. The secondary phase was to wonder where and how often this type of surveillance practice takes place in the world.

I also liked the video called Measures of Distance (1988) constructed from Arabic text overlaying images of the artist’s mother. The text taken from the letters that Mona Hatoum’s mother sent to her daughter during periods of separation.

Homebound (2000) plays with ideas of domestic confinement and house arrest and is a network of household appliances, electric cables and lighting programmed to flicker, crackle and hum, buzz, dim and light up. The electrifying aspect of the installation was tense and un-nerving and gave a real sense of force and oppression.

The final work that I particularly liked was Light Sentence (1992), large wire mesh squares organised in a sort of room or cage like format in a darkened white walled room. In the centre of the wire mesh squares was a single swinging clear light bulb casting dark shadows around the walls of the room as it continued to swing. It gave a real sense of confinement and containment and fear.

Laura Cumming (2016) of The Guardian describes this piece of work in a slightly different respect, “The obvious inferences are of imprisonment and torture. But each cage is small, and each door is open, so that the work somewhat resembles an aviary where the birds have flown. And the title – Light Sentence – seems peculiarly ambiguous, or at the very least by no means as piercing as the installation appears to deserve or suggest. The ideas are there, but not the visceral effect.”

Hettie Judah (2016) of the I newspaper describes how “Mona Hatoum mercilessly mines her own life and exile to stunning effect” and talks of the same art work Light Sentence (1992) as, “we find ourselves exposed to a space filled with small, stacked cages lit with a single bare bulb slowly ascending and descending, casting restless shadows. While examining the wire structure, the spectator’s body and it’s shadow are in turn caught in the projected shadow cages that surround it.” Two very different perspectives from Art critics.

I will take from this exhibition the continuous and imaginative ways in which the artist uses objects such as wires, lights, high grain video, cages, cameras, metals to act as clear metaphors for her ideas and statements. The work as an entire body creates a real sense of conflict, isolation and confinement, being surveyed and of human suffering.

My last thoughts were of the actions taken against others to deny their freewill. Living in England and very much taking relative peace, free speech and freewill for granted, I wondered about the people that don’t ever have that fundamental sense of freedom, but also what are the conditions and boundaries of that/our sense of freedom.

Reference list

See more about this Mona Hatoum’s exhibition at the Tate Modern at; http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/mona-hatoum

Accessed 03/06/2016

Laura Cumming, L. (2016) Mona Hatoum review: More lightbulbs than enlightenment The Guardian 08/05/2016 taken from the Guardian website at;

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/may/08/mona-hatoum-tate-modern-review-lightbulbs-enlightenment (accessed 03/06/2016)

Judah, H (2016) The body politic. The I newspaper May 2016