Currently on at Chantal Crousel in Paris, artist Mona Hatoum continues her incisive, challenging work reflecting on world conflicts, migrations, and surveillance, using materials as varied as steel, brick, concrete, and human hair to create spaces of tension, paradox, and ambiguity. Using these materials as a way to explore and elaboration on political systems of oppression and destruction, the artist’s work is a poetic and often startling challenge to power.
Hatoum’s work in particular centers on the body, but specifically a body suspended in a broader network of powers, and more concretely, on the body of the viewer. Mingling the thematics of the everyday life with global instability, political tension, and the lingering threat of violence, her forms, which often draw on familiar materials and scenarios, are attractive initially, and grow gradually more destabilizing as the viewer continues to explore them. In Remains (chair) V, for instance, a piece of furniture is reduced to its ghostly charred remains, held together by wire mesh. Presented as a shadow of sorts, the artist’s work deconstructs the idea of comfort and leisure, instead leaving its ghost, destabilized by violence. Another work, Hot Spot (stand), is a metal globe, wrapped in neon tube emitting a mesmerizing glowing red light. When approaching the work, one feels a sensation of heat and hears an unfamiliar electric buzz, turning a scene of global totality into a site of implied tension and danger.
The body is the starting point for much of the artist’s commentary on the state of the world. However, it may also be the object. Since her early works, Hatoum has explored the interiority of the body, often revealing its deepest intimacy, while also reveling in a sense of the irreverent and playful. In sculptures on view here, the artist incorporates materials discarded from her own body: a necklace made out of her own fingernails is displayed on a wooden bust (Nail Necklace) and in Silver Ball, rolled hair forms a large ball that is placed on a pedestal like a precious object.
What emerges from this range of objects and materials is the idea of a world where the power and symbolism of both the body and the globe, interior and exterior, are gradually breaking down and being forged anew. Hatoum poses a world where sudden changes in energy and status can lead to a broken down understanding of how we might imagine the conditions that define our current political state, if only to draw the lines around them, and then step beyond them.
The show closes November 23rd.
— C. Rhinehart
Mona Hatoum at Chantal Crousel [Exhibition Site]