Mona Hatoum is one of the most visible artists of the contemporary Arab world. Born to a Palestinian family living in Beirut, she developed her work in London, where she was exiled in 1975. Hatoum’s work confronts viewers with uncanny, conflicting and destabilizing emotions, interrogating dichotomies and structures of power with a charged attitude of urgency and pressure. The contradictions of violence and beauty, desire and ugliness or home and away permeate her reflections on displacement, instability and exile. The often fragile and changing nature of her works — made with materials such as marbles, gelatin, electric lights and human hair — augments the tension and uneasiness they convey. Socially and politically engaged, Hatoum invents her own personal artistic vocabulary in works that bring the viewer uncomfortably close to urgent questions of displacement, precariousness and violence.
As Hatoum’s oeuvre looks at everyday life, objects become strange and threatening, even as they retain the artist’s characteristic wit and irony. In Lantern, Hatoum transforms a familiar and dreamy room into an unlivable space that immerses the viewer in the danger suggested by the illuminated, menacing shapes of soldiers. The metamorphosis of light, a frequent reference in Hatoum’s work, is also evident in Undercurrent. The continuous and random glowing and dimming of this carpet, woven from electrical cables, amplifies the tension of being surrounded by live electrical wires, threatening the viewer with the many forms of personal and collective instability and the possibilities of artistic engagement that Hatoum’s work brings to the fore.