In preparation for the upcoming semester, I've been poring over some art theory textbooks (I'll be TA-ing for an intro Art Theory course) hoping to familiarize myself with the material before I have to discuss it with a class full of students (all by myself). Towards the end of one of the books, I came across a page or so about Palestinian artist, Mona Hatoum. The description of one of her most well-known pieces, Corps Etranger, particularly caught my attention. The video installation consists of projections, on the floor, of the artist's various bodily orifices. With the help of a doctor, she used an endoscopic camera to trace the surface and various orifices of her body, including the lining of her digestive track. Viewers were invited to step inside of a dark built cylinder, atop of the projection. I can only image how surreal and disorienting it must have felt - like being swallowed into the scale-less abyss of fleshy membranes.
In a fantastic interview with Janine Antoni, Mona Hatoum says of her work...
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. In a very general sense I want to create a situation where reality itself becomes a questionable point. Where one has to reassess their assumptions and their relationship to things around them. A kind of self-examination and an examination of the power structures that control us: Am I the jailed or the jailer? The oppressed or the oppressor? or both. I want the work to complicate these positions and offer an ambiguity and ambivalence rather than concrete and sure answers. An object from a distance might look like a carpet made out of lush velvet, but when you approach it you realize it’s made out of stainless steel pins which turns it into a threatening and cold object rather than an inviting one. It’s not what it promises to be. So it makes you question the solidity of the ground you walk on, which is also the basis on which your attitudes and beliefs lie.
(read the rest of the interview HERE)
I've come across Mona Hatoum's work in various forms, but never have I looked at it together, all at once, as a body, if you will. Despite the variety of materials and forms that they take on, her sculptures and installations deal with some over-arching themes/concepts that carry over quite nicely from piece to piece. The human body and its evocations of the familiar/ambiguous, enticing/disgusting, political/social, etc. Many of these themes (as well as some strikingly similar formal investigations of such) have been creeping up in my work as well.
Here are some examples of some of her other projects...
Grater Divide, 2002
Socle du Monde, 1992–93
iron filings on magnetic fabricated steel structure
Entrails (detail), 1995
"Half-recollections emerge in feelings of unease, only to be held just out of reach in any kind of firm and knowable sense." more here