Mona Hatoum, 2016
… Hatoum hints towards understanding of her elegantly developed language and recurring themes when she places Socle du Monde (Base of the World) and a still from the performance Roadworks at the beginning of this show. By making a first glance once clean lined minimal cube into a tangled mass of possible faeces, hair or intestines, and what were once the light stepping feet of a surrealist flaneur (a man who saunters around observing society) into heavy laden dragging boots, the artist cleverly subverts traditional patriarchal art movements and shows us what happens when a woman decides to investigate the world.
With the sense that there is more to unravel and a far greater weight to bear, we are reminded not of the lofty ideals of the Surrealists, but instead of the writings of Georges Bataille and his dissident response - a text called ‘Formless’ illustrated with photographs of open mouths and close ups of big toes taken by Jacques Boiffard - in which the focus is on the base underside of humanity rather than on dreams and the imagination. In Hatoum’s seminal video piece, Corps Etranger, the viewer explores the artist’s anatomy as fragmented, slippery and pulsating. The eye travels through mucus-lined tracts inside unidentifiable orifices on a journey that feels at once abject and meditative.
Hair emerges as the motif and material that unites the celestial and the corporeal. There is a poetic romanticism to Hatoum’s photograph Van Gogh’s Back, in which a man’s back hair is transformed into a painterly sky, as well as in the artist’s repetitive hairball sculptures that begin as personal moulting only to become miniature universes. Similarly, incidental oil stains on what appear to be throwaway food plates are outlined with a biro to produce wondrous worlds maps. Handmade paper works including the artist’s own nails, skin and hair become subtle and unobtrusive self-portraits seemingly anonymous and contained but in fact resolutely individual and in pieces….