Mona Hatoum Exhibition Review

Mona Hatoum was born in Beirut in 1952 and settled in to London in 1975 after a war broke out while she was visiting Britain. The exhibition at the Tate Modern reflects 35 years of poetic and radical thinking. The exhibition runs from the 4th of May to the 21st of August 2016, on the 3rd floor of the Tate Modern, London.

Upon arriving at the exhibition space one of the first pieces you see is a large image of a persons feet whilst they are walking with worker boots tied around their ankles. This was actually a snapshot of a video piece done in 1985 during the time of the race riots in Brixton, London. The boots tied to Hatoums bare feet were the Doc Martens associated with the police and skinheads. This accompanied by the video I thought was very powerful, surrounding the video it also had posters about unemployment as well.

Next we were confronted with a huge cheese grater and vegetable grater, the cheese grater was scaled up to the size of the room, and the vegetable grater scaled up to the size of a bed. When confronted with them you feel intimidated. As if the appliances are fighting back. Or, playing on the same idea as one of her later pieces of house arrest, it is like all that surrounds her are the same objects day in, day out, and you start to focus on these little things that you wouldn't usually take a second glance at.

Next you enter a smaller side room, in the middle hangs a light (the only light source) from the ceiling being slowly raised and lowered, consistently changing the shadows,surrounding it, 3 walls of cages resembling animal cages. This piece called 'Light Sentence' (1992) plays on the idea of being in i prison and excellently communicates the feeling of isolation and again slightly intimidating. It also introduces traumatic and political themes. The light slowly touches the ground and goes back up to ceiling level there fore sways slightly which makes the shadows move in a way the it even feels like you yourself is constantly rocking.


Homebound (2000) was the name of the next large instillation in the exhibition. It was a piece constructed of of a combination of kitchen utensils and household furniture, all connected togther with wire. A high and low electrical current was then passed through the wire and the utensils to create a circuit, almost a throbbing sort of light, and sound - as there was a rather loud buzzing/ humming sound. This was created by amplifying the noise of the electricity traveling through the circuit. As the name suggests the idea of the installation was conveying the feeling of being homebound, domestic confinement or a state of house arrest. You got a real sense of threat, isolation and personally a bit of insanity. The installation was then caged in with steel wires, to protect the viewers and also to create an isolated environment, which even on the opposite side of the wire, being the viewer, still felt isolating.


Next going through to the next room on the wall there were 2 used cardboard food trays which had a grease stain on. The stain was then outlined in red ink. I really liked the outcome of this piece, it reminded me of the outline of a country or a growing fungous of some sort.


Next, one of the main exhibits of the exhibition, Hot Spot (2013). This was a wire globe, standing up to about a foot taler than me, had the countries edges lit up with a red neon light. Hatoum describes the world as being constantly caught up in conflict. The message she was trying to convey was that the the whole world is dangerous. The feeling you get when standing in front of this piece was helplessness, as if that is how it is and there was noting you could do to change it or do anything about it.

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Next when you enter the next room to the left there is a big round sandpit. In the pit, thee is a large rotating arm, sweeping slowly around, one side of the arm created mounds in the sand whilst the other side of the arm levelled it back out, only to be repeated. This kinetic piece was designed to represent the interplay between  opposite forces, building and destroying in a continuous cycle. To me, it felt a bit like how life works, and getting a second chance, you build something up, after a bit it is wiped out, then you get another chance to try again.

In the same room, another circular piece, this one called Turbulence (black) (2014). This was constructed of thousands of small marbles all slightly different in size arranged in a perfect circle on the floor of the gallery. As they were glass the light bounced off the piece rather interestingly, creating white points where the light is being directly reflected and then in the shadows around each ball the darkest black, designed to resemble a black hole to suggest a force field of energy. The piece is designed to hint that chaos and turbulence are never far away. I quite liked this piece, there was something oddly satisfying looking at such a perfectly arranged circle created out of different sized objects.

Next we enter a smaller side room from the main exhibition space, in it, hung Impenetrable (2009), A piece which as you enter looks like very airy, delicate strandshung, or floating in a perfect 3 metre cube. It is only on closer inspection that you see these strands are not delicate at all, in fact they were rods of barbed wire, giving a very odd feel when up close as they looked so gentle a few paces back.


Next we come to Cellules (2012-13), this installation consists of 8 cage-like structures steel rods. Inside the cages there were these bright red glass blown balls, blown by hand into the corners, this made the glass almost oozing through the gaps in the cages trying to escape almost, looking like it is a soft material. The cages themselves are slightly tilted, designed to give them a sense of instability and the glass shapes, which were designed to look like bloody organs, or ambiguous creatures. The title plays on several meanings of 'cell' suggesting at once confinement, isolation and biology.

Finally we come to the last room of the exhibition, here they lay a mat woven by red cables in the centre of the gallery. At the end of each line woven in the mat the wire continued out snaking along the floor with a light at the end of each strand. The lights brightens and dims at what Hatoum calls 'breathing pace' suggesting the piece has a life fource of its own.

Overall I really liked this exhibition. I did not know of the artist before and had never seen or heard of any of her work, however after going I think that her pieces have very strong meanings. I learned a lot going to her exhibition and can see why she is best known for her big instatations and sculptures. I would defiantly recommend anyone to go and have a look at it as the feelings you get going around the gallery yourself is quite difficult to put into words.


Mona Hatoum – Tate Modern, London (until 21st August 2016)
Images taken by Hugh van der Lande