The poetic and political oeuvre of Mona Hatoum is presented in a varied and often unconventional set of media, which include installation art, sculpture, video, photography and works on paper. Mona Hatoum was born in Beirut in 1952 in a family of Palestinian origin. In 1975, during a visit to Great Britain, the Lebanese Civil War erupted and she was forced to stay in London.
In So Much I Want to Say, a series of still images unfolds (one every 8 seconds), revealing the face of a woman in close-up, filling the screen. Two male hands repeatedly gag the woman and obscure parts of her face sometimes covering it completely. On the soundtrack repeated over and over again are the words “So much I want to say” spoken by a female voice. So Much I Want to Say was filmed in Vancouver and transmitted to Vienna during a slowscan live video exchange: Wiencouver IV 1983. Within the context of satellite transmission, this work was intended to subvert the notion of easy flow of information through the electronic media and to disrupt the myth of the global village.
Changing Parts is a personalised portrayal and a metaphor for two different realities existing side-by-side. One part refers to an organised, clearly defined, privileged and ordered reality and the other to a reality of disorder, chaos, war and destruction. But this opposition turns out to be full of contradictions as these two spaces become interchangeable and in the disorder can also be seen an expression of birth and the sensuousness of life. The work has been constructed using shots taken inside the artist’s family home in Beirut (Lebanon) and some footage from the documentation of a live performance entitled Under Siege (performed in May 1982 at the London Film Makers Co-op). The soundtrack uses Bach’s Cello Suite no. 4 which fades into a multi layered track of noises, busy street sounds and two different layers of news reports…
Measures of Distance is constructed from a series of grainy stills shot in extreme close-ups of Hatoum’s mother in the shower of the family home in Beirut. The images are overlaid with a mesh of Arabic writing, like a curtain or a veil, which represent her mother’s letters from Beirut to her in London. On the soundtrack can be heard an animated conversation between Hatoum and her mother overlaid with Hatoum’s voice reading a translation of the letters into English. The video is concerned with the artist’s separation from her Palestinian family and in particular, her relationship with her mother. The personal and political are inextricably bound up in a narrative that explores identity and sexuality against a backdrop of traumatic social rupture, war, exile and displacement.