German / English
This catalog accompanies a huge survey of the work of Mona Hatoum at Kunsthaus St.Gallen. It takes the reader on a parcours through the exhibition from the artist’s body-centered early performances of the 1980s, through large sculptures of threatening household objects, to her politically charged but always beautiful installations of recent times.
Walking around the exhibition, the viewer is confronted by works steeped in references to a reality beyond art. Nevertheless, Hatoum holds a surprisingly profound and sometimes extremely humorous dialogue with the history of art and its traditions and forms, regenerating them and bringing them into the present. Art is basically a dialogue with art history that is created anew for each generation.
As confident as she is headstrong, Hatoum well knows how to employ a wide range of social and cultural references to expand traditional formulas from the quarries of long-defunct Western-style modernism. Her work exposes the fissures of a globalised society – never loud, but subtle and precise. The artist exploits the metaphorical potential of materials and accepts the archetypal images and complex visual metaphors of art as a resource. Hatoum’s work combines radical artistic thought with worldliness through her choice of objects steeped in artistic tradition and cultural meaning and the sophisticated way in which she reinterprets them. Her work is precisely determined at the intersection of contemporary sculpture, existential cipher and universal metaphor.
The final installation in this parcour could be dedicated to displaced Palestinians: Twelve Windows (2012–2013) was created in collaboration with Inaash, a Lebanese non-governmental organisation founded in 1969 to create employment for Palestinian women in refugee camps in Lebanon. Twelve one-metre-square embroidered pieces of fabric are attached with wooden clothes pegs at irregular intervals to a steel cable stretched across the side room: Each “window” represents, through its motifs, stitches and patterns, a key region of Palestine: upper and lower Galilee, Jaffa, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, Hebron, coastal and central Gaza, and Beersheba in Southern Palestine. In a tradition that is passed down from mother and daughter through the centuries, the panels offer an insight into the long standing tradition of Palestinian embroidery, one of the most enduring and tangible facets of the culture.’ The title seems to suggest opening the windows and exploring a rich and foreign tradition of embroidery. The installation itself, however, evokes pure everyday life – the image of washing lines, which in southern countries stretch from one house to another across narrow alleyways. In the museum, however, the steel cable criss-crosses the length of the exhibition space at different heights in a zigzag line, often linking the walls to the floor and then leading diagonally back to the starting point again. The space is broken up into sections and yet can still be experienced as a whole. The result is a confusing network of coordinates, or an uncoordinated network of lines like hurdles through which we have to move in order to study the embroidered “panels” more closely. We have to negotiate the way carefully, so as not to trip over the wire. Located in the tradition of walk-in environments, Twelve Windows almost physically grabs us and even in the protected space of the museum makes us instantly empathise with the physical disabilities and mental barriers of the collective experience that make up the everyday experience of countless people around the world. With Twelve Windows, Hatoum has once again managed to create an essentially simple metaphor for highly complex geopolitical factors in Palestine and elsewhere, at the same time remembering a rich cultural heritage threatened by prevailing conditions. Twelve Windows indeed opens something like a window onto another culture.
In collaboration with Kunstmuseum St. Gallen