May 29, 2005
A retrospective exhibition by Mona Hatoum closes at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. Her work is intimate and broadly political at the same time. Here’s a description of her work that I like (you can read more here):
In Interior Landscape (2008)…Hatoum worked with a local blacksmith to transform the wire support of a bed into a grid of barbed wire. Set in an alcove, the bed, without its mattress and with its chipped paint, resembles a prison bed. A symbol of comfort and repose becomes a nightmarish object. In stark contrast to the bed’s barbed wire base, Hatoum placed a soft pillow onto which she has sown a map of historic Palestine with strands of her own hair. Stray hairs that naturally fall out on beddings and pillows are considered unclean and repulsive, usually brushed off in disgust. Here, however, the strands of hair coalesce into the map of Palestine, as if responding to a persistent dream.
This map of Palestine is repeated on the wall next to the barbed-wire bed. Fashioned from a pink wire clothing hanger, the map hangs like a lifeless silhouette. Next to it, a basket-like paper bag cut out from a printed map of Palestine is suspended, its body slotted like a chain-link wire fence. A small three- legged coffee table wobbles against the wall, unsteady in its support of a light-weight paper plate on which the artist has drawn map-like shapes by simply tracing the outline of oil stains. The bedroom we normally associate with peace and tranquility is turned into discordant space filled with tension and uncertainty. None of the objects are functional a bed without a mattress; a broken table; a cut out map; a useless hanger. Together, the objects create a disconcerting surrealist landscape. In this piece, as in others, Hatoum creates a domestic space that “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 saw her speak in Abu Dhabi; hearing her talk about her work related to the body, gender, and politics was mesmerizing.