Mona Hatoum at Tate Modern

I’m on leave at the moment and have just been to see the Mona Hatoum exhibition at the Tate Modern. I’m not really into doing review pieces, but I do like to comment where I have found things to be thought provoking, or to inspire an emotional reaction. I would say that this existing has done both for me today.

I have two main impressions of the exhibition;

First is her use of materials – nothing is off limits here. She uses metals in the forms of cages and barbed wire, electrical cables and sheet metal. She uses cloth, weaving, embroidery and stick work. Photography, film and video. Documentation of performance pieces. Glass.

Second, for me the dominant emotion provoked by this exhibition was one of disorientation. The way that she combines materials is active in creating this feeling. Loud sound scapes accompany cages and electric lights, or the crackle of electricity feeding a neon globe. A closer look at a piece of very delicate stitching will reveal the thread to be made of human hair. Bulbous glossy red glass presses against the black cast iron bars of yet more cages. Beautiful coloured glass moulded into the shape of a hand grenade. The scale of pieces ranges from the tiny and the delicate through to the grand and the solid.

I was particularly affected by an installation early in the exhibition in which a lightbulb is suspended in a room full of what look like a three sided wall of battery cages. The light slips up and down the height of the room and the viewer, who stands on the outside of the cages, watches the shadows move across the gallery walls. Stand for a few moments and the walls themselves seem to move.

Before seeing this exhibition I had not really seen any of Mona Hatoum’s work. Mona Hatoum’s was a visitor to Britain in 1975 when was broke out in her Lebanon, her home country. She settled in Britain and many of her works relate to conflict. Seeing decades of the work together in one place gave me a strong sense of both dislocation and defiance. I was slightly frustrated in some parts of the gallery, where guide ropes were drawn at a distance from the works that made it difficult to see the details. This was particularly the case for some of the delicate textile pieces. However in combination the works, are powerful and emotionally affecting. Definitely worth a look.

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