Art Chronicles: Mona Hatoum

Born into a Palestinian family in Beirut and living in London and Berlin, Mona Hatoum makes work – installations, sculpture – that confronts the world. Directly; indirectly. Sometimes more so, sometimes less.

Remains to be Seen, The first piece in her current show at the White Cube in Bermondsey,  takes up most of the space in which it is displayed. Pieces of concrete attached to steel hawsers: the skeleton of a building. The kind we are used to seeing on news reports from Syria and the Middle East, except that those buildings have been so torn and twisted, damaged to the point where it becomes difficult to imagine them as they once were. Here everything is arranged in perfect formation, so that we are asked to see both the original and the aftermath simultaneously. As Hatoum has said of her work, it is about conflict and contradiction, both evident within the object itself.

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.

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‘Remains to be Seen’ Mona Hatoum

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‘Remains to be Seen’ [detail] Mona Hatoum
The other installation which struck me most forcefully was Remains of the Day, which was originally created for the 10th Hiroshima Art Prize exhibition. Less room for ambivalence here. Charred remnants of a home are arranged around the sides of a room: chairs on which people have sat down to dinner; a child’s cot; a toy truck; a life burned to cinders and ash.

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‘Remains to be Seen’ Mona Hatoum
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‘Remains to be Seen’ Mona Hatoum

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‘Remains to be Seen’ [detail] Mona Hatoum
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‘Remains to be Seen’ [detail] Mona Hatoum
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‘Remains to be Seen’ [detail] Mona Hatoum

Author: John Harvey

Writer.

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