Mona Hatoum

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Mona Hatoum
Born 1952
Beirut, Lebanon
Education Beirut University College
Awards Rolf Schock Prizes in Visual Arts (2008)
Premi Joan Miró (2011)

Mona Hatoum is a Lebanese-born Palestinian video artist and installation artist who lives in London, United Kingdom.

Early life[edit]

Mona Hatoum was born in 1952 in Beirut, Lebanon to Palestinian parents.[1] Although born in Lebanon, Hatoum does not identify as Lebanese.[2] As she grew up, her family did not support her desire to pursue art.[3] She continued to draw throughout her childhood, though, illustrating her work from poetry or science class.[4]

Early career[edit]

Hatoum studied graphic design at Beirut University College in Lebanon for two years and then began working at an advertising agency. Hatoum was displeased with the work she produced while working in advertising.[4]

Exile and Education[edit]

During a visit to London in 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon and Hatoum was forced into exile. She stayed in London, training at both the Byam Shaw School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art (University College, London) between the years 1975 and 1981.


Mona Hatoum explores a variety of different subject matter via different theoretical frameworks. Her work can be interpreted as a description of the body, as a commentary on politics, and on gender and difference as she explores the dangers and confines of the domestic world.[5] Her work can also be interpreted through the concept of space as her sculpture and installation work depend on the viewer to inhabit the surrounding space to complete the effect. There are always multiple readings to her work.[4][5] The physical responses that Hatoum desired in order to provoke psychological and emotional responses ensures unique and individual reactions from different viewers.[5]

Early work[edit]

Hatoum's early work consisted largely of performance pieces that used a direct physical confrontation with an audience to make a political point. She used this technique as a means of making a direct statement using her own body; the performances often referenced her background and the political situation in Palestine.[6] In her work, she addressed the vulnerability of the individual in relation to the violence inherent in institutional power structures. Her primary point of reference was the human body, sometimes using her own body.[7]

One of her first major pieces, Measures of Distance, explores the themes topics of her early art.[8]

"Measures of Distance"[edit]

Created in 1988, "Measures of Distance" illustrates Hatoum's early themes of family, displacement, and female sexuality. The video piece itself is fifteen minutes long and consists of intimate, colored photographs of Hatoum's mother showering.[9] Hatoum overlays the photographs with letters from her mother to Hatoum. The letters are handwritten in Arabic and compose the themes and the narration of the video that Hatoum is trying to convey. Hatoum's mother, living in Beirut, wrote the letters to Hatoum, living in London, and speaks of the difficulty of sending letters in a time of conflict in Lebanon.[10] Hatoum herself reads the letters aloud in both Arabic and English. The video roots itself in the brief family reunion that occurred in Beirut between Hatoum and her parents in 1981. While primarily about the mother-daughter relationship, in her mother's letters Hatoum's father is mentioned and thus the father-daughter relationship as well as the husband-wife relationship is examined in this video.[11]

The elements of the video—the letters, Hatoum's mother's wish to see her, and mentions of the war by Hatoum's mother—explore how the war in Palestine and the war in Lebanon displaced the identity and the relationships of Hatoum and her family.[12] The video is neither a documentary nor meant to be journalistic. The video makes critiques about stereotypes while remaining optimistic, since the narration speaks positively in most of the letters except when speaking about the distance between the mother and daughter.[12] Hatoum attempts to recreate the moment she had with her mother when they reunited in Beirut; the moment when Hatoum asked to photograph her in the shower. Instead of showing direct scenes about the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict of the Lebanese civil war, Hatoum shows the dire effects both wars have had on her family relationships and her identity. Displaying cultural and familial displacement, Hatoum distances and draws Western audiences closer through her English and Arabic narration.[13]

What is especially unique about this video is how it is a portrait of a Palestinian woman. Hatoum gives her mother a voice in the video art that otherwise would not have been heard by Western audiences, Arabic and non-Arabic. The video attempts to contradict stereotypes typically made specifically about Arabic women.[14] The Tate Modern describes the portrait in the following words: "It is through the daughter's art-making project that the mother is able to present herself freely, in a form which cements a bond of identity independent of colonial and patriarchal concerns."[10] "Measures of Distance" is one of the few works done by Hatoum that speaks directly to her background. In other works, Hatoum prefers to be more abstract and to leave the work open ended.[14] While not as abstract as many of her other works, the viewer is still forced to work through how to understand the formal elements of the video. They are not easily given by Hatoum like her narration is.[12] "The video transmits the 'paradoxical state of geographical distance and emotional closeness.'"[13]

The video was screened at the London Film Festival, AFI National Video Festival, and the Montreal Women's Film and Video Festival.[11]

Later work[edit]

In the late eighties, Hatoum abandoned performances as politically too direct and turned her attention instead to installations and objects, taking up some of the earlier ideas from her student days at the Slade School of Art in London.[15][16] From then on, she relied on the kind of interactivity that lets the spectator become involved in the aesthetic experience without the presence of the artist herself as performer making her the focus of attention.[17]

Her work from the 1990s onwards made the shift from making statements to asking questions. Much more is required of the viewer as performances were replaced by sculptures and installations that required a level of mental and physical interactivity with the viewer.[18]

The Body[edit]

Many of Hatoum's early pieces situate the body as the locus of a network of concerns—political, feminist, and linguistic—thereby eliciting a highly visceral response.[19]


The political possibilities for the uncanny visual motif are relevant to discussions of Hatoum's work, as the disruption achieved at a psychological level can have broad implications involving power, politics, or individual concerns.[18] The allusiveness attained by her work is not always referencing grand political events, or appealing to a generalized cultural consciousness, but instead to a seemingly unattainable threat that is only possible to address on an individual scale.[18]


Since 1983, Mona Hatoum has been displaying both her installations and her video performance art pieces on exhibitions around the world. She has been featured in individual exhibitions as recently as 2011 in White Cube in London.

Some of her other solo exhibitions to note include: Centre Pompidou, Paris (1994), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1997), The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1998), Castello di Rivoli, Turin (1999), Tate Britain, London (2000), Hamburger Kunsthalle, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Magasin 3, Stockholm (2004) and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2005), Parasol Unit, London (2008), Darat Al Funun, Jordan (2008), Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice (2009) and Beirut Art Center (2010).

She has also participated in a number of recognized group exhibitions, including: The Turner Prize (1995), Venice Biennale (1995 and 2005), Biennale of Sydney (2006) and the Biennale of Montreal; Drone the automated image (2013). A solo exhibition entitled "Turbulence" is organised in 2014 by Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha.

Public Collections[edit]

  • The Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs
  • Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona
  • FRAC de Picardie, Amiens
  • Baltimore Museum of Art Kunstmuseum, Basel
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Arken Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen
  • Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark
  • Israel Museum, Jerusalem
  • Arts Council of Great Britain, London
  • The British Council, London
  • Tate Gallery, London
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts
  • Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
  • The Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo
  • The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
  • Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
  • FNAC, Paris
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art Centro de Arte de Salamanca, Salamanca
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela
  • Moderna Museet, Stockholm
  • Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
  • Art Museum, Arizona State University, Tempe
  • The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
  • The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
  • Kunsthaus, Zürich


  • 2012
    • May till August 2012 Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona
  • 2008
    • Honorary doctorate, American University of Beirut
    • Rolf Schock Prize, Stockholm
    • Bellagio Creative Artist Fellowship, London
  • 2004
    • Awarded the Roswitha Hoftmann prize
    • Awarded The Sonning Prize
  • 1998
    • Awarded title of Visiting Professor by Chelsea College of Art and Design and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London
  • 1997
    • Awarded Honorary Fellowship of the Dartington College of Arts, Devon, England
  • 1994-1995
    • Guest Professor at L'École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris
  • 1992- 1997
    • Part-time teaching post at Jan van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht
  • 1990-1993
    • Member of Artists' Film and Video Committee of the Arts Council of England
  • 1989-1992
    • Senior Research Fellow in Fine Art at Cardiff Institute of Higher Education, Cardiff
  • 1988
    • Video production residency at The Western Front Art Centre, Vancouver
  • 1986-1994
    • Visiting lecturer at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London
  • 1986-1989
    • Member of the Management Committee of the London Video Access, London
  • 1987
    • Member of the Advisory Committee of Third Text (Third World Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture)
  • 1986
    • Residency at 9.1.1., Contemporary Arts Centre, Seattle
  • 1984
    • Video production residency at The Western Front Art Centre, Vancouver




  • Mona Hatoum. (essays by Ingvild Goetz, Rainald Schumacher, Leo Lencsés), Edited by Ingvild Goetz, Rainald Schumacher, Larissa Michelberger, Language: German/English, Published: November 1, 2011 by Hatje Cantz.


  • Martínez, Chus. Le Grand Monde, ex. cat. Santander, Spain: Fundación Marcelino Botin Mona Hatoum. (essay by Catherine Grenier). Montreal: ABC Art Books Canada


  • Mona Hatoum: Interior Landscape. (essays by Chiara Bertola and Réda Bensmaïa), ex. cat. Milan: Charta


  • Mona Hatoum. (essays by Edward W. Said, Alix Ohlin, and Salwa Mikdadi, interview with Janini Antoni), ex. cat. Amman, Jordan: Darat al Funun - The Khalid ShomanFoundation
  • Mona Hatoum: Undercurrents (essays by Whitney Chadwick and Alix Ohlin), ex. cat. Ferrara: Gallerie d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea dei Commune di Ferrara
  • Mona Hatoum: Unhomely (essay by Kirsty Bell), ex. cat. Berlin: Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin and Holzwarth Publications


  • Mona Hatoum. (essay by Andrew Renton), London: Jay Jopling/White Cube


  • Mona Hatoum. (essays by Stephanie Snyder and Alix Ohlin), ex. cat. Portland, Oregon: The Reed Institute, Reed College


  • Mona Hatoum. (essays by Ursula Panhans-Bühler, Volker Adolphs, Nina Zimmer, Richard Julin and Elisabeth Millqvist, and Christoph Heinrich), Hamburg: Hamburger Kunsthalle


  • Mona Hatoum. Oaxaca: Museo de Arte Contemporàneo de Oaxaca


  • Mona Hatoum. (essays by Tamar Garb, interviews with Janine Antoni and Jo Glencross), Salamanca: Centro de Arte de Salamanca (CASA); Santiago de Compostela:

Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea

  • Mona Hatoum. (essays by Francisco Reyes Palma and María Inés García Canal), Mexico City: Laboratorio Arte Alameda


  • Mona Hatoum: Domestic Disturbance. (interviews with Janine Antoni and Jo Glencross, essays by Louis Grachos, Laura Steward Heon, and Joseph C. Thompson), North Adams: MASS MoCA; Santa Fe, NM: SITE Santa Fe
  • Mona Hatoum. (essay by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill), Caracas: Sala Mendoza


  • Mona Hatoum (essay by Jean-Charles Masséra), Thiers, Reims, Anvers: Le Creux de l’Enfer, Le Collége, Muhka 6
  • Mona Hatoum: The Entire World as a Foreign Land (essay by Edward W. Said and Sheena Wagstaff), London: Tate Gallery Publishing Ltd.


  • Mona Hatoum (essay by Giorgio Verzotti), Milan: Charta 1998 Mona Hatoum (essays by Madeleine Schuppli and Briony Fer), Basel: Kunsthalle Basel 1997
  • Mona Hatoum (essays by Dan Cameron and Jessica Morgan), Chicago: The Museum of

Contemporary Art

  • Mona Hatoum (essays by Michael Archer, Guy Brett, Catherine de Zegher, Piero Manzoni, and Edward Said), London: Phaidon Press


  • Mona Hatoum (essay by Din Pieters), Amsterdam: De Appel


  • Mona Hatoum (essays by Jacinto Lageira, Desa Philippi, Nadia Tazi, and Christine van Assche), Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou


  • Mona Hatoum (essays by Guy Brett and Desa Philippi), Bristol: Arnolfini

Reviews and Articles[edit]


  • Mosley, Matthew. “In search of a map of a home: Mona Hatoum;s show ‘Witness’ takes the gallery-goer down the Beirut.” The Daily Star (June 16, 2010): 12
  • Zughni, Farrah. “Caution: Danger ahead: The delightful and deadly works of Mona Hatoum.” Now Lenbanon (June 26, 2010)
  • Mansoor, Jaleh. “A Spectral Universality: Mona Hatoum’s Biopolitics of Abstraction.” October Magazine (Summer 2010): 49-74
  • Griffin, Kevin. “Visceral Bodies shows our fleshy architecture.” Vancouver Sun (February 15, 2010): F5


  • Soueif, Ahdaf. “Reflect and Resist.” The Guardian (June 13, 2009) Vogel, Carol. “A More Serene Biennale.” The New York Times (June 8, 2009): C1-C2 Wilson-*Goldie, Kaelen. “Mona Hatoum.” Artforum (February 2009): 210


  • Wright, Karen. “I am not trying to illustrate my personal experience.” (interview) The Art Newspaper (July/August 2008): 34


  • Aukeman, Anastasia. “Mona Hatoum at Alexander and Bonin.” Art in America (March 2006): 146-7
  • Hall, Emily. “Mona Hatoum.” Artforum (February 2006): 210-211 King, Natalie. “15th Biennale of Sydney: Zones of Contact.” Art Monthly (July/August
  • Scharrer, Eva. “Critics’ Picks: Mona Hatoum at Max Hetzler.”
  • Spears, Dorothy. “Evidence if a Life Lived.” Art on Paper (January/February 2006): 64-69


  • Garrett, Craig. “Mona Hatoum,” Contemporary No. 74 (2005): 70-71
  • Holmes, Pernilla. “Making the Ordinary Anything But.” ARTnews (May 2005): 124-127
  • Tsai, *Eugene. “Mona Hatoum, Mobile Home.” Time Out: New York (November 24–30, 2005): 108


  • “Preview: Winter 2004.” Artforum (January 2004): 79
  • Frank, Peter. “Mona Hatoum, hair there and everywhere.” art on paper (May/June 2004): 40-41


  • Smith, Roberta. “When an Artist’s Eye Guides a Museum Show.” New York Times (December 12, 2003): E43


  • Beechey, James. “Stranger in a strange land.” Financial Times (May 11–12, 2002): VIII
  • Ohlin, Alix. “Home and Away: The Strange Surrealism of Mona Hatoum.” Art Papers Magazine (May/June 2002): 16-21


  • Lloyd, Ann Wilson. “From Nest to Nest, Creating on the Fly.” The New York Times (June 3, 2001): AR33, AR35


  • Halliburton, Rachel. “The appliance of science.” The Independent (London)(March 22, 2000): 10


  • Leydier, Richard. “Mona Hatoum.” Art Press (December 1999): 79-81


  • Antoni, Janine. interview “Mona Hatoum.” Bomb (Spring 1998): 54-61
  • Harper, Paula. “Visceral Geometry.” Art in America (September 1998): 106-111


  • Cotter, Holland. "Pangs of Exile and Lost Childhood." The New York Times (December 5, 1997): 31


  • Baker, Kenneth. "Reviews." Artnews (December 1996): 126 Shapira, Sarit. “East Jerusalem: Mona Hatoum.” Flash Art (October 1996): 121


  • Lind, Maria. "Mona Hatoums State of Emergency." Paletten (Göteborg) (April 1994): 8-11


  • Cameron, Dan. "Mona Hatoum." Artforum (April 1993): 92


  • Archer, Michael. "Mona Hatoum: Mario Flecha." Artforum (December 1992): 107-108


  • Philippi, Desa. "Mona Hatoum: The Witness Beside Herself." Parachute (Montréal) (April–June 1990): 10-15

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Riggs, Terry. "Mona Hatoum", Tate, Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  2. ^ Antoni, Janine (1998). "Mona Hatoum". BOMB. Retrieved 2014-10-13. 
  3. ^ Tusa, John. "Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with the Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum". BBC. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  4. ^ a b c Tusa, John. "Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with the Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum". BBC. BBC. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  5. ^ a b c Feminist Artists. "Mona Hatoum". Retrieved 2011-05-03. 
  6. ^ Female Artists. "Mona Hatoum". Retrieved 2011-05-03. 
  7. ^ Hamburger Kunsthalle. "Catalogue, "A major survey including new work ", 26 March – 31 May 2004". Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  8. ^ Antoni, Janine (1998). "Mona Hatoum". BOMB. Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  9. ^ "Measures of Distance 1988". IMDB. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Manchester, Elizabeth. "'Measures of Distance', Mona Hatoum: Summary". Tate Modern. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  11. ^ a b "Measures of Distance". Women Make Movies. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c Hassencahl, Fran (July 1991). "Review". Middle East Studies Association Bulletin 25 (1): 109–110. 
  13. ^ a b Waterhouse, Eliza (March 2014). "Diasporic Geographies and Émigré Bodies: the politics of identity in Mona Hatoum’s Measures of Distance". Philament SURFACE/DEPTH. 
  14. ^ a b Anandan, S. "Beyond shackles of biography and geography". The Hindu. 
  15. ^ Hamburger Kunsthalle et al, Hatje Cantz,. "Mona Hatoum, exhibition Catalogue". White Cube. Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  16. ^ Archer, M. "Essays with Mona Hatoum". Interview. Phaidon. Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  17. ^ Hamburger Kunsthalle; et al. "Mona Hatoum, exhibition Catalogue,". Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  18. ^ a b c Female Artists. "Mona Hatoum". Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  19. ^ Ohlin, Alix. "Home and Away: The Strange Surrealism of Mona Hatoum". Retrieved 2011-06-03. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Michael Archer, Guy Brett, and Catherine M. De Zegher, eds., Mona Hatoum, Phaidon, Oxford, 1997

External links[edit]