Mona Hatoum is a Palestinian/British artist who lives and works in London and Berlin. Shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1995 and included in prestigious exhibitions such as the 1995 and 2005 Venice Biennales and Documenta XI, Hatoum has been recognized for her provocative performances, installations, objects and images that can be politically charged and often play on conflict and contradiction, confronting themes including oppression, violence, voyeurism and displacement.
Paired with Liam Gillick and Doris Salcedo, Hatoum’s work is currently featured in Inhabited Architecture, a presentation from the collections of the Guggenheim Museums showing at the Guggenheim Bilbo. She was also awarded the 2011 Joan Miró Prize, which includes a solo exhibition at Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, June 2012. Other recent solo exhibitions include Witness, Beirut Art Center, Beirut and Le Grand Monde, Fundaciòn Marcelino Botìn, Santander in 2010.
“I always say that the most exciting thing about being an artist for me is I never know where the next exhibition is going to take me to in the world and what I will end up making. I find this very exciting – this not knowing.” Mona Hatoum in Tate Shots: Mona Hatoum, Studio Visit.
Mona Hatoum resents being misidentified as Lebanese based on having grown up in Lebanon. She explains that while she was born in Beirut her parents are Palestinian, she has a British passport and she now lives between London and Berlin. All to say, that locating an individual by way of a map is complicated. It isn’t as simple as summing one up based on “where they are from.” This of course speaks to my interest in the where of where is the power.
For many of us, maps and diagrams are an ongoing fascination that probably stems from a need for order and containment. Hatoum stated, somewhat disapprovingly, in a 2010 lecture at Serpentine Gallery in London, “Maps give the illusion of stable measurement.” Nevertheless, or perhaps to make the same point, maps have appeared as image and concept frequently in Hatoum’s art from the early mapping of her own body in chalk on the floor of a dark room in Live Work for the Black Room in 1981 to Present Tense, a 1996 work made in-situ for an exhibition in Jerusalem in which the artist traced, in red beads on white soap blocks, the map drawn up in the 1993 Oslo Accords for Israel and Palestine, to Projection, 2006 that is included in where is the power.
Projection is deceptively enchanting as a white and off-white depiction of a world map based on an egalitarian presentation of landmass known as the Peter’s projection. Hatoum’s seductive image is familiar but irreconcilable with our expectation of cartographic convention, addressing the skewed scale (and signification of importance) found in the more commonly used world map which is governed by a white, Northern bias.