Mona Hatoum – Displaced Containment?

9/11/18

"Mobile Home" 2005

What are your childhood memories like of home? I think that's what I resonated with when I came across this installation piece while investigating the art of Mona Hatoum. In viewing some of her work before reading anything about the artist I found myself experiencing an inner conflict. Most of the pieces I came across were installations that I found a bit discomforting. It was the kind of art I'm not drawn to because there is a dark side. Oddly enough that's the very thing that made me more curious. Hatoum was born in Beruit, Lebanon and studied graphic design there, later moving to Britain in the mid 70's where she continued to study art and then could not return to Lebanon due to the civil war that broke out.

"Interior Landscape" 2008

Hatoum's work explores a variety of themes including politics, and issues of displacement and containment. I selected 3 images of installations that I was drawn to. The top one clearly referenced the idea of home for me. While there is a deep sense of displacement I also connect to an order of some kind within the space that they are contained. I found myself trying to make sense of it and create a story that I could relate to so I wouldn't feel so displaced as a viewer. The second image "Interior Landscape" struck a chord with me as a painter who's done interior landscapes. This interpretation is quite different and at first look could appear quite innocuous despite the stark quality. When I read more about the installations details I learned the bed has barbed wire surface, the pillow has a map of Palestine sewn into it with strands of the artists hair. The table on the is missing a leg and on it goes. Hatoum states about the piece: "offers neither rest nor respite.” In this way, the installation serves as a metaphor for the state of being for Palestinian refugees living the longest ongoing conflict in modern history.” I imagine actually experiencing this work would have a more profound effect on me. It's nothing close to innocuous when I let myself really take it in.

"Suspended" 2011

The last work depicted is called "Suspended". My first thought was of childhood swings. But then again there was this feeling of its not quite that! There is a darkness that dispels any idea of joy that I typically associate with swings and being suspended in air with a sense safety and freedom. In that context the swing, as a subject, alone stirs up a sense of displacement for me. The exhibition itself contained 35 swings each etched with a map on the seat. I'm not sure of the significance of 35. Visitors engaging with the exhibit were not allowed to sit on the swings but were encouraged to walk through. The arrangement of the swings was intentional to create a sense of disconnection or "geographical dislocation". I think the use of color amplifies the message. Red on the seat in contrast to the dark chain link conveys a sense of conflict. I'm not sure I would feel inclined to sit on the swings even if I could have. Somehow I don't think I would have felt suspended but rather a part of something uncomfortable. I appreciate these pieces for their ability to challenge my own thinking and awareness of cultural and political issues that have far reaching effects.
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