Some of her sculptures transform familiar objects into threats
This is the story of a girl who wanted to be an artist. Born to Palestinian parents on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, from a tender age she revealed an attraction of pencil and paper. Nothing unusual in that: all children like to color. But this one continued even when her parents didn’t approve, illustrating poems and scientific papers. Religion imposed the veil on her, leaving her less and less at ease. But she managed to complete her school studies in graphic design and at the age of 20 went to work in an advertising agency. She was satisfied neither with the job nor with the work she produced. Her father escaped from the war in Palestine, and after much effort found a position at the English embassy, where he obtained British passports for his wife and children. Thus the young woman was on vacation in London when civil war broke out, and she was left an exile. No, we aren’t talking about the present. We are in 1975, and the young woman’s name is Mona Hatoum. From her forced residency in the west sprung forth a deep, spiritual self-exploration. Her work takes inspiration from Minimalism, Surrealism an Conceptual Art. Sometimes she evokes her Palestinian roots, revealing connections with the Middle East, but she doesn’t like to be defined in those terms. What Hatoum really does is to mix diverse cultures. A Palestinian born in Lebanon, adopted by London, she mixes them together to create a universal language. In her singular sculptures, Hatoum transforms everyday objects such as chairs, cribs and kitchen utensils into something threatening and dangerous. The human body also becomes “other”, as in Corps étranger (1994) or Deep Throat (1996) where an endoscopic journey into the interior of the artist’s body becomes a performance. In Homebound (2000) and Under Tension (1999), Hatoum assembles mobiles and pieces of household furnishings together, connecting them by an audibly buzzing electrical current, combining threat with surreal humor to create work that attracts the viewer both emotionally and intellectually. In smaller sculptures such as Traffic (2004) and Twins (2006), she uses recycled materials crusted with the patina of time and personal reminiscences that bestow a sense of intimacy on her work.