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 Mona Hatoum  (1952 - )

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom/Lebanon      Known for: Performance art-body focus, assemblage

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Mona Hatoum’s poetic and political oeuvre is realized in a diverse and often unconventional range of media, including installations, sculpture, video, photography and works on paper.

Hatoum started her career making visceral video and performance work in the 1980s that focused with great intensity on the body.  Since the beginning of the 1990s, her work moved increasingly towards large-scale installations that aim to engage the viewer in conflicting emotions of desire and revulsion, fear and fascination. In her singular sculptures, Hatoum has transformed familiar, every-day, domestic objects such as chairs, cots and kitchen utensils into things foreign, threatening and dangerous. Even the human body is rendered strange in works such as 'Corps étranger' (1994) or ‘Deep Throat’ (1996), installations that use endoscopic journeys through the interior landscape of the artist’s own body.  In Homebound (2000) and Sous Tension (1999) Hatoum uses an assemblage of household furniture wired up with an audibly active electric current – combine a sense of threat with a surrealist sense of humour to create works that draw the viewer in on both an emotive and intellectual level. In smaller sculptures such as Traffic (2004) and Twins (2006) Hatoum uses found materials, rich with patina and laden with personal resonance, to create poetic, beguiling works on an intimate scale.

Mona Hatoum was born into a Palestinian family in Beirut, Lebanon in 1952 and now lives and works in London and Berlin.  She has participated in numerous important group exhibitions including The Turner Prize (1995), Venice Biennale (1995 and 2005), Documenta XI, Kassel, 2002 and Biennale of Sydney (2006). Solo exhibitions include Centre Pompidou, Paris (1994), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1997), The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1998), Castello di Rivoli, Turin (1999), Tate Britain, London (2000), Hamburger Kunsthalle, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Magasin 3, Stockholm (2004) and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2005). Recent exhibitions include Measures of Entanglement, UCCA, Beijing (2009), Interior Landscape, Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice (2009), Witness, Beirut Art Center, Beirut (2010), Le Grand Monde, Fundaciòn Marcelino Botìn, Santander (2010).

Mona Hatoum has been awarded the prestigious 2011 Joan Miró Prize and a solo exhibition of her work will be held at Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona in June 2012.

Source:
White Cube Gallery
http://www.whitecube.com/artists/hatoum/

Biography from Sotheby's Doha:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

"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.  In a very general sense I want to create a situation where reality itself becomes a questionable point.  Where one has to reassess their assumptions and their relationship to things around them.  A kind of self-examination and an examination of the power structures that control us.. I want the work to complicate these positions and offer an ambiguity and ambivalence rather than concrete and sure answers.  An object from a distance might look like a carpet made out of lush velvet, but when you approach it you realize it’s made out of stainless steel pins which turn it into a threatening and cold object rather than an inviting one.  It’s not what it promises to be.  So it makes you question the solidity of the ground you walk on, which is also the basis on which your attitudes and beliefs lie." Mona Hatoum quoted in  "Mona Hatoum" by Janine Antoni, BOMB 63/Spring 1998, ART.

Mona Hatoum’s remarkably diverse and innovative body of work challenges perceptions and traverses boundaries, transcending the traditional dichotomy of exterior versus interior.  Born to Palestinian parents in Lebanon in 1952 but now living primarily in London, and having exhibited extensively on an international level, Hatoum’s work expertly fuses elements of East and West to form a uniquely innovative artistic language.

Composed of intricately arranged iron filings, Untitled acts as a magnificently powerful presence within a room, exuding a sense of ineffable authority.  The magnetic fields of Untitled cause the filings to ripple and reorder, creating a work that exists in a state of perpetual flux.  Although at first glance the grooved surface appears curiously abstract, closer inspection reveals that the maze-like patterns are reminiscent of entrails or intestines.  The visual connection with the human body turned inside out generates a sense of unease, while the organic exterior has a tactile fur-like materiality, which is extremely seductive. 

Since the start of her artistic career, Hatoum's exploration of the human body has been a central theme to her work.  Various other examples of Hatoum's work have examined a similar subject.  The most formal connection can be made to Hatoum's Corps Etranger, a video installation created in 1994, in which she used an endoscopic journey through the interior landscape of the her own body.  In Entrails Carpet (1995), an installation composed of shiny rubber which, alongside Untitled, packs an undeniably visceral punch once the organic shapes have been fully discerned.

Jessica Morgan argues that these works indicate the ideas of revelation and discovery: “Like a mass of writhing life discovered beneath an upturned garden log, or the peeling back of flesh… to display the interior matter, the convoluted intestinelike surface pattern… suggests sudden exposure.” (Jessica Morgan in "The Poetics of Uncovering," in: Exhibition Catalogue, Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Mona Hatoum, 1997, p. 11).

Untitled
is intensely cerebral in nature: further analogies with the interior of the body can be drawn with the shape and patterns found within the human brain, expounding the idea of a form of universal consciousness.  As such, Untitled can be seen as being intimately connected to one of Hatoum’s most important works, Socle du Monde (1992-93).  Inspired by Piero Manzoni’s work of the same name, an empty plinth composed of iron fillings supports the ‘weight of the world’ on its base; by extension, the circular Untitled arguably symbolizes the world itself.  As a representation of the potential of human consciousness combined with the indefinable mysteries of the human body, Untitled can be regarded as one of Hatoum’s most impressive and majestic works.

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