Mona Hatoum Review at the Tate Modern

Mona Hatoum was an artist I had been told to look at in my first year of study, but apart from a brief reading about her work, I never really researched her enough and had never had the chance to see her work in person, to research the connection my tutor saw within my own practice. I wish I had looked at her work sooner, as she has such a vast array of work and issues being explored with everyday objects.

This show at the Tate gave me the opportunity to see her art up close and to really see the connections within the pieces and how she explores the narrative with the object and issue being looked at. Now I see what my tutor saw. Her work is extremely inspiring and critically thought through allowing the work to fully engage with the audience and bringing to mind more than one issue whether that’s to do with her own personal journey or consumerist/ cultural issues she encounters at the time.

Mona’s recent work is about reimagining objects, and their human connections with the social systems ands controls in society today and through out her past. Its not just the object as a thing we see that she uses, but also as in Object Ontology, she uses dialogue, found objects, everyday things, forms and feelings. Taking them away from how we understand them to be and giving them a new agency, making the audience question the original narratives and experiences of each of the pieces, as they are show within her work. Creating these juxtapositions within her work makes the audience confront both uncomfortable and desirable feelings.

This collection of Mona Hatoum’s work at the Tate spans thirty-five years of her career and is just a small collection of what she has produced. This exhibition is extremely well put together, and flows well from one work to the next.


The feeling emanating from the work ranges from engaging and boarding on the uncanny and bazaar with works like ‘Greater Divide’, a life size copy of a Victorian metal cheese grater in the shape of a room divider. This looks funny to start with, a kitchen implement on a giant scale within a living room. Once you really contemplate the work as a giant sharp lethal cutting tool, within an everyday environment, then raises questions about how everyday objects create dangerous divisions among people and screen people off from the possible truth.


To the more un-nerving and positively claustrophobic work as in ‘Light Sentence’ made from wire mesh lockers. Again an everyday object that in any other setting we wouldn’t normally give a second glance to, but Hatoum has created a work using these extremely architectural looking objects into something political and controversial, that made me feel extremely claustrophobic and a little queasy. Stacking them above regular head height and within an enclosed dark room except for the single light bulb that was placed in the centre of the whole structure and was moving up and down casting shadows and a narrow path to walk around. The shadows that were cast constantly moved, creating a motion rather like bobbing about on the sea, showing us not everything is stable. These were not everyday shadows; this was done to create the effect of a searchlight within a prison setting. Again a beautiful pieces with a shocking undercurrent of dangerous narratives.

Her work is extremely engaging and toys between showing us the intense beauty and nature of the world to the fragility and fine lines of war and peace, showing us how quickly the human body or person can switch between creating something extraordinarily beautiful to then becoming an object of control, destruction and pain.

Here is a brief interview about the work at the Tate.







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