The attraction of uncertainty

Valencia • At IVAM spotlight on Mona Hatoum

Large installations, sculptures and works on paper of the last 20 years are on show

Palpable precariousness in the recurring red neon wires on giant metal globes

An artistic figure of international fame, Mona Hatoum has captured the attention of the art world since the early 1990s. Among the many awards, the most recent is the Julio González Prize of the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (IVAM), where she now has a personal exhibition of about thirty works, mainly sculptures, large installations and works on paper of the last two decades.

Interested in social issues, in the constraints of freedom and cultural identities, she also bases her themes on her experiences as a Lebanese woman. (She was born into a Palestinian family in 1952 in Beirut.) She was already in London as an exile when the civil war broke out in Iran in 1975, upsetting any balance.

“I’m often asked the same question: How does your culture manifest in your work? As if I have a recipe and can isolate the Arab ingredient, the woman ingredient, the Palestinian ingredient. People often expect me to define myself, as if identity is something stable and easily defined.”

In the wake of many questions and contradictions, Mona Hatoum, talks about her relationship with the world taking as her subject first the body and especially the domestic sphere since the eighties. She carefully chooses materials for their evocative properties: for example, metallic building materials as well as organic and site-specific ones. She also assembles objects and furnishings as if they were coded messages, sometimes altering their dimensional scale to the point of magnifying them like classical sculptures. Little remains, however, of the Duchampian and Surrealist decontextualization, the disorientation is dramatic, as well as disturbing.

She assembles objects and furnishings as if they were coded messages and enlarges them into sculpture

There are some exceptions to irony, mostly only in works of small dimensions. The precariousness is also palpable in the recurring theme of planetary maps made with red neon wires on giant metal globes (Hot Spot III, 2009), with glass marbles on soap surfaces (Present Tense, 1996-2011) or directly on the floor. The continuous associative solicitations, including the light and sound effects, induce a sensorial tension that breaks the cognitive schemes of any acquired and reassuring mental mapping. Nothing is what it seems, even the simplest things can hide deceptive seductions: the glitter of marbles, a welcoming carpet, the restorative promise of a bed. Destabilizing sensations come from many fronts and stick with you. Is it possible to tolerate such uncertainty? Yes, if destabilization is experienced as an opportunity for knowledge: with a merciless and refined synthesis, her work expresses many concerns and has much to say.

 

Mona Hatoum

Valencia IVAM

Curated by José Miguel G. Cortés

Until 12/09

The Author

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