In our August Artist Profile blog, Katie Morton, Exhibitions Curator, Birmingham Museums, explores the work + and – by Mona Hatoum.
Mona Hatoum’s work + and – is a multiple in which the conventional tools of mark-making and erasure are replaced by a motorised arm and a circular bed of sand. On one end of the arm is a toothed piece of metal and on the other is a smooth one. As the arm turns, it continuously makes marks in the sand and erases them. + and – is currently being shown in The Everyday and Extraordinary at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition explores the potential of ordinary objects to be transformed and seen in new and insightful ways, and the transformation of familiar domestic objects is an important feature of Hatoum’s work.
Hatoum’s practice varies from works on paper to large-scale installations and her work explores the complexities, conflicts and contradictions of our world. Hatoum was born in Lebanon to Palestinian parents and became stranded in London when war broke out in Lebanon in 1975. She has continued to live and work in London since. Her early practice was performance-based and highly political, touching on themes such as disenfranchisement, exile, separation and dislocation. From the late 1980s, Hatoum’s practice shifted to a focus on installations and sculptures. Many contain cage and grid-like structures which suggest containment and systems of control. Her sculptures regularly use domestic objects which have been transformed to evoke a sense of danger and the uncanny, often through changes to their structure or scale. They are simultaneously compelling and threatening, mesmerising and disturbing. Seen in this context, the continual mark-making and erasure in + and –evokes contrasting senses of creation and destruction, presence and disappearance, and presents these in a continuous cycle as the sand is grooved and smoothed down.
The Everyday and Extraordinary is a touring exhibition conceived by Birmingham Museums Trust as part of the Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme 2016-19. It is on show at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery until 9 September, then at Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne from 28 September 2018 to 6 January 2019.