The exhibition at the Kunstmuseum St.Gallen is the artist’s first solo presentation at a Swiss museum. Born in Beirut as the daughter of Palestinian parents, in this extensive show the artist juxtaposes her major works with new pieces created specifically for the exhibition.
Using her own body as a projection space for social and political themes – that was the starting point for Mona Hatoum’s early artistic creations. In the 1980s she translated her own experience of living in exile as a foreigner into radical performances. Since the 1990s she has produced sculptures and installations in which the absent body functions as a metaphor for threat and vulnerability. Clean, minimalist forms contrast with fragile materials, while everyday objects create an illusion of comfort yet reveal latent danger. The ambivalence the artist provokes alludes to a loss of orientation towards that which is familiar and tangible. Her sculptures expand the formal possibilities of minimal art by adding the crucial political and existential dimension.
In addition to expansive installations and sculptures, the presentation in St.Gallen also includes early video work as well as documentation of her former performances. Turbulence (2012) features thousands of shiny, translucent glass marbles of various sizes arranged on a square surface to form a pattern reminiscent of cloud formations or bodies of water. As a contrast, Paravent (2008), a sculpture made of steel, provides an exact enlargement of a three-piece Victorian kitchen grater. The oversized household item, which now serves as a room divider, becomes a barrier that isolates visitors and impedes their passage in a threatening manner. Made of fine barbed wire, the Impenetrable (2010) installation hangs from the ceiling, forming a dense, impenetrable cube that seems to float in the air. Though delicate in its execution, the work is highly evocative of feelings of danger and captivity.
Mona Hatoum now divides her time between London and Berlin. She continues to be regarded as one of the most outstanding artists of our time. In 2004 she was awarded the prestigious Roswitha Haftmann Prize, and she received the Joan Miró Prize in 2011.