Mona Hatoum


Mona Hatoum, Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College 2005

Mona Hatoum: Unhomely, Kirsty Bell, Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin, Holzwarth Publications


Doormat, 1996

Mona Hatoum seems to specialise in recording/creating situations that are "paradoxically familiar yet discomforting." These paradoxes are arguably vital to her sculptures and installations, as bodily supports and familiar domestic objects (such as swings, welcome mats, chairs, cribs and kitchen utensils) are constructed out of materials that incise and destroy the body. By constructing these ordinary objects out of aggressive, sinister materials (especially the cold, clinical nature of steel,) Hatoum is able to subvert their familiarity; transforming the traditional sense of homely comfort into one of terror and unsettlement. The most disturbing piece of hers is arguably 1993's Incommunicado (see below) and the spooky atmosphere created by the sharp (almost like cheese-wire) steel rods at the base of the crib:


Confronted with the metal barbs and razor sharp edges of these sculptures, most of us disavow our impulses toward direct physical contact, yet a cyclical repulsion and attraction shocks us into awareness of their potential. Hatoum pulls us into the absence (implied presence) of the agitated, lived body that these sculptures await- and in so doing, draws us closer to the phenomenological body-subject. Merleau Ponty states that the "lived body is both object and subject. From the point of view of a subject, the body is not an object outside of consciousness but the only way of being present in the world and being conscious of it."

Hatoum's ability to grant household objects an element of fear linked well to my initial feeling towards the eyelash curler I produced drawings of in class yesterday, and this same idea that a simple metallic household object can always be damaging in the rules and conventions it imposes onto us (in the case of the eyelash curler it represented the psychologically damaging effects of the "beauty myth" on women.) After thinking about how my object could be subverted into a different use, most of the ideas I came up with involved increasing the size and scale, and so in this sense the brainstorm also linked well to Hatoum's giant metalworks. 


Paravent, 2008


Day Bed, 2008


Home, 1999

 Overall I identified particularly with Hatoum's works that highlighted the fragility of the domestic environment, especially those involving household utensils. The cheese grater pieces (as well as Home's use of general kitchen utensils) were particularly emphatic in expressing the discomfort of an "Unhomely" environment, and so I think I will consider this domestic aspect further in my sketchbook. The five found objects I brought in today to class were also distinctly domestic and the ritual I produced was an ode to the repetitions of tea-towels/j-cloths in the kitchen - overall I think I am definitely going to focus on the mundane, domestic aspects of being a human being (which are ultimately intrinsic into being human.)

© Molly Jaqueline Lea Turner, all rights reserved