Critics’ Picks

Mona Hatoum, Undercurrent (red), 2008, cloth-covered electric cable, lightbulbs, dimmer device, dimensions variable.

Mona Hatoum, Undercurrent (red), 2008, cloth-covered electric cable, lightbulbs, dimmer device, dimensions variable.

Berlin

Mona Hatoum

Akademie der Künste | Pariser Platz
Pariser Platz 4
July 31–September 5, 2010

Though modest in size, the exhibition featuring the 2010 winner of the Käthe Kollwitz Prize, Mona Hatoum, highlights the vicissitudes of her prodigious career over three decades. Hatoum was born in Beirut to Palestinian parents and has resided in Europe since 1975, when civil war broke out in Lebanon. Consequently, the powerful stamp of her personal history has often dominated the reception and interpretation of her art—particularly her earlier, more explicitly political videos and performances (including pieces on view such as Roadworks, 1985, and Deep Throat, 1996). However, her increasingly minimal and elusive later works resist being defined by any cultural or biopolitical framework. Via the motifs of enclosures, maps, cages, and man-made boundaries (Cube (9 x 9 x 9), 2008; Globe, 2007; Projection, 2006; Routes, 2002), Hatoum explores concepts born of Enlightenment philosophy—emancipation, resistance, alienation—but through a world generally shaped by iniquitous power relationships, ambiguity, dislocation, and diaspora.

In contrast to some of Hatoum’s other exhibition spaces, such as the Fondazione Querini Stampalia during the Fifty-third Venice Biennale, the stark rooms of the Akademie lend these works a cool, muted intimacy. If the austerity of the installation detracts from the visceral impact of some of the pieces, such as those fashioned from human hair, it emphasizes a dichotomy long present in the artist’s oeuvre: The refined simplicity and sensitivity of Hatoum’s work is held against a quiet, disturbing, and often hidden violence—not only in its overt forms, like conflict and war, but also in the subtle, naturalized violence of the everyday, the domestic, and the institutional.