|Mona Hatoum, The Light at the End, 1989|
I first saw a work by Mona Hatoum at “The British Art Show 1990” (26 years ago!) and was deeply impressed. The piece was The Light at the End (1989) which comprised a metal frame closing off a claustrophobic, red-lit, tunnel like space: the frame was vertically strung with glowing electric elements radiating considerable heat. Visually the piece brilliantly combined the seductive, elegant Minimalism of, say, a Dan Flavin light sculpture with a contradictory, palpable danger and threat.
Although Light at the End does not appear to be included in the Tate's restrospective there is plenty of work here which subtly combines pleasure and threat - a preoccupation which derives from Hatoum's background: she was born to Palestinian parents in Beirut and exiled when civil war broke out in Lebanon while she was visiting London in 1975.
Homebound (2000) comprises a tableau of domestic furniture and items – tables, chairs, a cot, kitchen utensils – through which an electric current surges, simultaneously lighting them and turning them lethal; Light Sentence (1992) comprises wire mesh cages illuminated by a single bulb which throws sinister shadows on to the walls. Powerful stuff: a show not to be missed.
Read reviews by Adrian Searle, Laura Cumming, Waldemar Januszczak, Mark Hudson, Rachel Spence; read a feature by Philippe Dagen relating to this exhibition's previous showing at Centre Pompidou; read a profile feature by Rachel Cooke which refers to some of Hatoum's early performance work including Under Siege (1982) during which for seven hours Hatoum appeared naked, covered in clay, and trapped inside a huge transparent container... Again and again, she would try to stand up; again and again, she would fail. As the day wore on, the tank’s walls grew dirty, smeared with marks left by her muddy hands and body, her cheeks, her lips.
(Click on images to enlarge.)