• Review

  • October 30th, 2019 10.30.2019

    Mona Hatoum: White Cube Bermondsay, London


    By Dr. Kostas Prapoglou

    The visual lexicon of Palestinian born, London based artist Mona Hatoum has become well-recognizable to a wider audience, especially after her show at the Centre Pompidou in 2015 and her Tate Modern retrospective in 2016. The Tate presented thousands of visitors with the opportunity to view a major body of her work spanning a career of 35 years, embracing her early performance and video works as well as later installations and sculpture. Remains to be Seen is her first solo show at London’s White Cube Bermondsey since the Tate exhibition, incorporating some new and recent works, a number of which were apart of last year’s Remains of the Day solo exhibition at White Cube’s branch gallery in Hong Kong.

    Concrete debris, wire mesh, reinforcement steel bars, bricks, and neon light appear throughout the show and are utilized in various forms in combination with delicate materials, such as glass and human hair. These installations and sculptures colonize the gallery space, sometimes submissively and other times more aggressively. Their spatial arrangement is on a mission to affect and confront the viewer’s present emotional state—one can either feel inquisitive by drawing closer to or intimidated by keeping a safe distance.

    Mona Hatoum, Remains to be Seen, White Cube Bermondsey 12 September – 3 November 2019 © Mona Hatoum. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis)

    Remains to be Seen (2019) is a forest of thin steel reinforcement bars covering a large area (approx. 17 x 17 x 17 ft); vertically suspended and forcefully piercing concrete chunks seem to be floating in mid-air. Evocative of war detritus and bombed buildings, the entire structure is a grid of possibilities—a skeleton of an extinct entity, a noetic edifice that is still standing or hanging from a thread and it appears so fragile that could perhaps collapse before our eyes at any moment. Nearby, Orbital (2018), a sphere made of the same constituents as the previous work, stands muted and inanimate like a carcass of a planet preserving fragments from its previous state, or, like a three-dimensional orbit mapping model of rubble-esque asteroids that have been paused to infinity, orbiting around a planet that no longer exists.

    Another room plays host to a domestic setting or, perhaps, the imprints of it. A cluster of chairs and a table, children toys, and a cot are severely burnt, charred to the bone revealing pieces of their inner parts. Remains of the Day (2016-18) is an installation carefully orchestrated by the artist, who encapsulated wood within chicken wire frames, leaving behind all leftovers of a burning process. This was initially presented during Hatoum’s solo show at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art and received its inspiration following the artist’s visit to the Japanese city and after accepting the 10th Hiroshima Art Prize in 2017. The uncanny and unsettling scene pronounces not only aspects of impermanence and human vulnerability, but it also speaks to global conflict and violence in past and present tense.

    Mona Hatoum, Remains to be Seen, White Cube Bermondsey 12 September – 3 November 2019 © Mona Hatoum. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis)

    Hot Spot (stand) (2018), a steel globe delineating the continents of the earth in red neon light, derives from the work Hatoum originally created back in 2006. This piece in combination with Map (mobile) (2019)—portraying the continents in glass suspended by stainless-steel bars and rods—initiate a commentary on the proprietorial systems of supremacy, the fluidity of boundaries, the fragility of the human condition and, inevitably, the frailty of natural habitats.

    Traversing across the polarities of today’s realities, Hatoum’s work poses politically loaded questions in the attempt to interrogate the way historical and political events on regional and global scale  construct or deconstruct new socio-cultural identities. Spiritual and corporeal degradation as a result of tension, confinement, dispute and ferocity, are omnipresent elements throughout the works of this exhibition. And although Hatoum strives to challenge our perception of reality and perhaps seeks to disorientate us at times, the emerging gridded patterns, the concealed geometry in tandem with all architectural principles embedded within several of her works echo a subliminal compass mechanism allowing the viewer to navigate themselves through an esoteric and emotional journey.

    Mona Hatoum: Remains to be Seen at White Cube Bermondsey, London, runs through November 3, 2019.