Mona Hatoum was born into a Palestinian family in Beirut, Lebanon in 1952 and now lives and works in London and Berlin. “In the world of culture artist Mona Hatoum has found the most significant visual expression for the experience of “New Europeans” – living on that unstable ground between two cultures, where you do not feel at home in either – not the one you left or fled from nor the one you have voluntarily or involuntarily become a part of.”
1. Bourj III: A Welcome Mat that bristles feature thousands of steel pins. Home is no longer a safe haven but a dangerous place.
2. Untitled (rack)
3. Mobile Home: Between two metal police barriers are a suitcase, various tables, children’s toys and fabric swatches, all attached to taut motorized wires that pull the objects back and forth, connecting stability at home with law and order.
4. Worry Beads: Worry beads take the form of a Muslin string of prayer beads, but is presented in gigantic and threatening proportions because the beads have been enlarged to the size of cannon balls. No longer used to mark the monotonous rhythm of a prayer or a chant, the hypnotic sound of the beads has now become a series of precise and violent blows that put us on alert.
5. Waiting is Forbidden: Waiting is forbidden’ is the literal translation of Arabic characters on a street sign Hatoum saw in Cairo during her residency and subsequent exhibition at the Townhouse Gallery.‘Waiting is Forbidden’ has been fabricated in an edition of 6 in materials used for traffic and highway signs. It is the artist’s intent that it be installed alone on a wall - creating a space one is forbidden to wait within.
6 & 7. Bunker: Recreats 23 bombed-out Beirut buildings in stacked sections of rectangular mild steel tubing – a material that looks anything but mild in this context. The cuboid Modernist structures spattered with bullet hole-like borings, gougings and serrations create a brutally ominous cityscape in the specially dimmed light.
8. Light Sentence: Light Sentence is a play of the expression “life sentence”. The viewer moves around a cage-like structure, interrupting and disturbing the violent shadows that are thrown up by a slowly moving light-bulb suspended within it.
9 & 10. Current Disturbance: As the bulbs light up and fade out at irregular intervals, they sporadically illuminate the surrounding room and the unruly mass of wiring covering the floor.
Excerpt from excellent interview with BOMB magazine:
Mona Hatoum I dislike interviews. I’m often asked the same question: What in your work comes from your own culture? As if I have a recipe and I can actually isolate the Arab ingredient, the woman ingredient, the Palestinian ingredient. People often expect tidy definitions of otherness, as if identity is something fixed and easily definable.
Janine Antoni Do you think those kinds of questions have made us overly self-conscious about how we represent ourselves and its effect on the work?
MH Yeah, if you come from an embattled background there is often an expectation that your work should somehow articulate the struggle or represent the voice of the people. That’s a tall order really. I find myself often wanting to contradict those expectations.
Muslims make up just 6% of the population of Europe, and have consistently committed less than 0.5% of the terrorist attacks over the last 5 years. Much is still unknown about the attackers, yet already there has been a widespread consensus that this is the result of Islamic extremism. Today all Muslims in Britain are being blamed for the actions of two men. Particularly shocking was the BBC’s Nick Robinson rushing to say the men were of “Muslim appearance”, and the reporter on ITV news describes it as the “day that Baghdad style violence came to South London.”
The media’s repeated scapegoating of the Muslim population and its continual ‘clash of civilisations’ narrative must be challenged. It is time we recognise and fight against the distorted depictions of Muslims we see every day in the media. When a Muslim murders a white man it is denounced as terrorism and considered worthy of rolling news coverage but when a Muslim is killed in a racist attack, like the one on 75 year-old Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham earlier this month, it is treated as a one-off murder and largely ignored. These blatant double standards are not acceptable.
Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh & Rozenn Quéré: Possible and Imaginary Lives
Combining family photographs and photomontage, this work depicts, with irony and tenderness, the gap between reality and fantasy with the history of Lebanon in the background. Small images taken from family albums are retouched, creating a new photographic archive tinged with fiction. Memory, history and contemporary art merge delicately into one another in this imaginative work. via concours
Artist Statement on Book Project: This is the story of four strong and feisty women, exiled to the four corners of the globe; four Palestinian-Lebanese sisters who have travelled through the history of the twentieth century.
It is a story somewhere between documentary and fiction, biography and drama, based on family photographs, interviews – both actual and imagined events.
Several gatherings, sifting and listening made stories and words emerge, that were then recreated in the present in the most vivid way possible by combining the inner experiences of these women to the lived experience of the gatherings. Herein is a reinterpretation of reality tinged with tenderness and humour. The four women’s and the authors’ imagination is at the core of this work.
Jocelyn, the eldest sister, lived in Cairo. Frieda, the youngest, went into exile to Paris. Stella left Lebanon at the time of the civil war for New York, and her twin Graziella is the only one who has remained in Beirut.
This story called into play images of invented memories, and sometimes defective memories brought up a doubt of what was invented, the memories or the photographs?
Far from being a factual portrayal of Graziella and her sisters, ‘Vies possibles et imaginaires’ is an attempt to translate the eccentricities and the imagination of these women so as to give their imaginings the same status as reality. In other words, combining old family photographs and text did not aim at writing their story, but at writing their myth.
Winning project of the Vevey International Photography Award, realised with the support of Festival Images (Vevey/Switzerland). It is published by Editions Photosynthèse (Arles/France). via recontres
As Palestinians around the world recently marked the 65th anniversary of their mass displacement during the war over Israel’s 1948 creation, the refugees in Gezirat al-Fadel say they have it worse than others who fled to Jordan, Syria or Lebanon. Unlike the millions who live in refugee camps in those countries, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) does not have offices in Egypt and so does not offer Palestinian refugees in Egypt assistance.
The US, the UK and its allies have repeatedly killed Muslim civilians over the past decade (and before that), but defenders of those governments insist that this cannot be “terrorism” because it is combatants, not civilians, who are the targets. Can it really be the case that when western nations continuously kill Muslim civilians, that’s not “terrorism”, but when Muslims kill western soldiers, that is terrorism? Amazingly, the US has even imprisoned people at Guantanamo and elsewhere on accusations of “terrorism” who are accused of nothing more than engaging in violence against US soldiers who invaded their country.
In the autumn of 2005, Najaf Shokri was on his way to work when he made an intriguing discovery in a rubbish bin near his house in downtown Tehran. The bin, outside a branch of the National Civil Registrations Organisation, was filled with old national identification documents, all issued in 1942 and long expired.
Shokri decided to create an art project out of his find, a collection of ID photographs that documents a generation. Shokri called the project Irandokht - “daughter of Iran” - after he noticed so many women by that name among the documents. It used to be a common first name in Iran.
Before their replacement with more modern ID cards, Iranian identification documents consisted of four-page birth certificates issued without photographs. A holder was required to add a photograph to the document before using it for various legal purposes such as marriage, the national university entrance examination (known as the concours), or voting. Though the documents Shokri found were issued in 1942, the images in Irandokht are largely drawn from the period between the late 1950s and the late 1970s, when most of the women pictured added their photographs to their IDs.
Between 1950 and 1978, women’s roles in Iranian society transformed dramatically. The middle class rapidly expanded, and women from different backgrounds found their way into schools and the job market. Basic primary education, once the preserve of the economic elite, spread to much of the populace. Young women in Iran’s cities either removed their hijab or never wore it in the first place.
“One can see the history of the era in these faces,” Shokri says. “Many of these women had mothers who were born to rural or small-town families but were married to men who came from the cities. The urban population was expanding and life was changing. It seems despite the fact that many of these families came from more traditional backgrounds they were in the process of adapting to the more westernised life of the big cities.”
A popular term from the early 1920s through the early 1940s, during the country’s preceding surge of modernisation, Irandokht is now out of fashion both as concept and name. But that’s in part exactly why Shokri chose it for his project.
“I wanted to transform expired private documents into public heritage,” he says. Irandokhts, the daughters of Iran, remind us of a past - in fact not so distant - when the Middle East had a different face. via theguardian
Their beautiful faces. This should have a MILLION notes.
The U.S.-led invasion to “liberate” Iraq from Saddam Hussein has imprisoned [Iraqi] women in an inferno of sectarian violence that targets women and girls. The literacy rate, once the highest in the Arab world, is now among the lowest as families fear risking kidnapping and rape by sending girls to school. Women who once went out to work stay home. Meanwhile, more than 1 million women have been displaced from their homes, and millions more are unable to earn enough to eat.
“Speak, this brief hour is long enough Before the death of body and tongue: Speak, for the truth is not dead yet, Speak, speak, whatever you must speak. […]
If they snatch my ink and pen, I should not complain, For I have dipped my fingers In the blood of my heart. I should not complain Even if they seal my tongue, For every ring of my chain Is a tongue ready to speak.”
[T]he most common presumption that people in the United States have about gay Palestinians is, “Life must be hard, and we hear that you guys want to escape to Israel for your freedom.” It’s a peculiar assumption, however. “You can’t tell Palestinians, ‘We want to have interventions into Palestinian society to quote-unquote rescue gay people,’ but at the same time ignore the fact that someone’s home is about to be demolished, or about to be shot on the way to school or work, or going to be denied health care,” says Atshan. “You have to understand what are, in a sense, priorities.