In artist Mona Hatoum’s hands, seemingly innocuous objects like light bulbs, toys or even a wheelchair can acquire strange and threatening dimensions. Her intensely visceral sculptures, installations and videos work within a dynamic of conflict both within their form —minimalist yet surreal—and in the emotions they arouse in the viewer.
Hatoum was born to Palestinian Christian parents in exile in Lebanon and herself became an exile in the UK in the aftermath of a civil war in Lebanon. While this experience inevitably colours her perception of the world, her works, though political and feminist in a distinctly poetic way, rarely refer explicitly to specific geographies of conflict. Instead, she leads viewers into the violent subtexts of our world through an experience of the uncanny. The seductive visual and corporeal impact of Hatoum’s works often reels in the viewers before their conscious minds can make meanings out of them–before language takes over.
Exhibited at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, Undercurrent (2004) is a circular arrangement of light bulbs and interwoven wires on the floor. The throbbing lights warn of danger —of landmines perhaps, or snaking streams of lava— yet are irresistible in their allure. The bulbs brighten and fade with the rhythm of a viewers’ breath; their pulsating motion seeming to encapsulate the mysterious ebbs and flows of the universe in perpetual motion.