Sample Research Paper on Mona Hatoum

Mona Hatoum


Mona Hatoum is one of the internationally acclaimed female artists across the world. Coming from a society that is never heard of in terms of great success in art forums, Mona stands out as one of the individual who gave this rare community a chance to be part and parcel of art (Sawchuk, 2014). Mona has received numerous accolades across the world for outstanding pieces of artwork.  Mona was born in Lebanon but currently resides in the United Kingdom (Shelton, 2014). In fact, some people argue that Mona is more of a United Kingdom artist than Palestine since it was the United Kingdom that provided an opportunity to study the current works being shown today (Shelton,2014). Additionally, Mona likes to be identified with works from the United Kingdom. Mona left Lebanon for London immediately civil war began in Lebanon.  Most works being presented by Mona show life experiences as well as the many oppressive Palestinian experiences. Mona pieces of art represent or serve as a mirror detailing what is happening in the current world. All details are described intricately to deal with the social, political and economic issues facing society today. It is this experiences expressed in from of art that have won numerous accolades internationally.

Early Life

Hatoum was born in 1952 in Beirut Lebanon. Both parents were Palestinians (Shelton, 2014). Therefore, Hatoum is a citizen of Palestine by birth. Mona grew up in a society and family that had no place for art and thus was constantly being denied an opportunity to engage in any form of art. However, Mina never gave up on what was later to change and transform the lives of many people across the world (Shelton, 2014). At a young age, Mona was constantly noted drawing illustrations from science and poetry works. Mona started her art career by studying graphic design at Beirut University College which was located in Lebanon. Later on, Mona was employed in an advertising agency firm where she worked for some years. Mona admits that working in the firm was one of the jobs that never pleased her during the entire time. She always felt that she was missing out on something and decided to go to London to look decide what she was going to do with her life. It is during this stay in London, that a civil war began in Lebanon (Lionis, 2014). As a result, Hatoum decided to stay and study in London. This was in 1975 when war in Lebanon had reached its prime. While in London Hatoum took the opportunity to study in Slade School of Fine Arts and Byam Shaw School of Art. It was during this period that Hatoum begun growing relevant skills related to artwork that would be used in the future

Artistic Works

There are several works written by Hatoum that shows the intelligent way in which poetry could be used together with art. One such form of work is the Art of Displacement: Mona Hatoum Logic of Irreconcilables. In this piece of work Mona Hatoum provides a description of a house that is under question. The house painted provides a description of the living conditions in which certain people lived in. The handle of the door is supposed to be at a location that is easily accessible by different people. However, in this case, the handle is placed two feet above the head and can therefore not be reached. The current location of the handle cannot be grasped and thus cannot fulfill the required function (Said, 2000). It also fails to address the coming of any individual in the house. The door of the house can also only be pushed from the hinges before entry. Thus any entry into the house must be sideways and at an angle that can only either catch the coat or skirt worn (Sawchuk, 2014). One inside the house, the house has a carpet that has undulating curves. On closer examination it is revealed to be intestines that have frozen in the plastic stillness (Said, 2000). The kitchen on the other side of the room is found to has steel wires that have been strung across the door preventing any form of pre-venting entrance (Sawchuk, 2014). A closer look at the door reveals wires covered with colanders and finally connected to a wire that is connected to the wire that is directly to the bulb. A bed is also present at a corner. The bed lacks a mattress and is shown to contain wilt at the ends of its legs. A white powder is also present in the bed. Adjacent to the bed is the bare metal of a papers crib with a television set with crumbled sounds (Sawchuk, 2014). All these show that the room was initially designed to be a place where people would live in peace (Said, 2000). Currently, it looks like an abandoned place with some signs of human life showing that it was once an individual place of residence before all of this happened. The abiding locale that is present in most of the art settings is not present in the works of Hatoum who paints a picture of a society that is nearly at war with itself (Said, 2000). All elements that would represent tranquility are present. The only problem is that they have been transformed into war elements until the domestic component of the environment has been destroyed. A wheelchair still remains to be a wheelchair with the only difference in the new environment is the use of the parts of the wheel chair as weapons for any form of war (Sawchuk, 2014). All the above features can be taken to be providing a description of all events that happened in Palestine where homes and other places were transformed in a single night especially after the civil war in Palestine (Said, 2000). In the real sense, the descriptions being provided by Mona shows the true state of activities before and after the civil war.

Measures of Distance is another great piece of artwork produced by Mona Hatoum. The video produced by Hatoum addresses the numerous issues that separated families faced. More specifically it addresses the relationship between mother and child relationships (Trasforini, 2013). In this case, it addresses the relationship between Mona and her mother. Hatoum’s ancestral home was torn apart years ago after a fight between with the Israel. The result of the war saw some parts of Palestine annexed to Israel. After the defeat, Mona’s family ran away from the war into established camps present in Lebanon where Mona was born. Years later Mona leaves for London before another period of civil intolerance in the new lands. Mona’s parents remained in Lebanon while Mona was in London. The available means of communication between the different parties was through letters (Sawchuk, 2014). Mona used to send letters to her parents who were away in the war country and they would reply back. Measures of Distances addresses the life of Mona in exile and how different culture – European and Arabic are at play. Similarly, Mona mother is in exile living in Beirut but there is no cultural interference (Shelton,2014). The video shows the effects of political discrepancies in different societal settings creating a huge gap between politics, personal identity and memory (Sawchuk, 2014).  The film begins by describing the different environment in which the two different parties live. Different voices of people speaking Arabic and then shifting to English are also noted.

Cultural conflicts are deeply shown in Measures of Distances especially when a father finds his wife and daughter bathing together while taking photos. Such cultural practices were not common in the ancient Arabic world. Instead of censoring such photos, Mona seems to shroud the images showing the most important parts (Shelton,2014). A translucent paper is also utilized to cover such images throughout the film (Trasforini, 2013). Hatoum’s mother constantly sends letters to Hatoum but also describes the difficulty of sending letters during this period. Hatoum receives the letters and reads then loudly in Arabic and English showing that though living in a different country, Mona was still aware of the cultural beliefs and values of the Lebanese people (Shelton, 2014). The video also shows the brief family reunion that took place in Beirut when they met in 1981.

Although the video is only fifteen minutes its able to describe different relationships in the family including mother–daughter relationships, father-daughter relationship and husband -wife relationship. The video is firmly founded on three important variables. They include letters, mention of war and wishes of Hatoum’s mother to see Mona. Therefore, the video can be classified as one that provides a description of how the war in Lebanon affects relationships on families as well as destroying individual identities (Sawchuk, 2014). It critiques most of the stereotypic behaviors while at the same time speaking more positively about the letters that were being sent by a mother to daughter. Hatoum attempts to recreate some events especially the one that she met her mother in Beirut (Shelton, 2014). Instead of focusing on the war that was taking part between the Palestine’s and the Lebanese, Mona choose to concentrate on family issues. Despite leaving in a western country, Mona distances the effect of the western behaviors in Arabic countries and the numerous differences that exist between these two communities (Schulenberg, 2015).

One important feature in that is extremely unique in the video is the portrait of a Palestinian woman. Hatoum provides her mother with a video art that comes from both Arabic and Non- Arabic countries. The video’s main aim is to contradict the stereotypes that have been made concerning Arabic community (Shelton, 2014). Measures of Distances stand out as one of the works of Mona Hatoum that directly speak about their backgrounds and what they have done to survive to date. The video transmits emotional closeness and geographical state of activities. All this information is transmitted in a paradoxical state.

Mona Hatoum is an all round artist taking part in poetry, video production as well as in the production of different work embodiments. Corp estrangers is one of the work embodiments made by Hatoum. In this work, Hatoum combines with a physician to conduct endoscopy and generate images of her body both inside and outside (Shelton, 2014). Hatoum chooses to use echography to record both breath and heart beat. The images made are then projected to a cylinder lined with black fabric. The images would change rapidly from one form to another.  In this piece Hatoum was more interested in creating a body that was under surveillance.

Hatoum’s works are also associated with nomadic subjectivism and political promise. While theorizing the nomadic subject, one female philosopher known as Rosi Braidotti defined the nomadic subject as a historically and geographically embodied in traditional societies (Schulenberg, 2015). The scholar added that identities of people who move from one place to another would normally become detached in the process with their culture standing at divisions (Sawchuk, 2014). These divisions were referred at the centre and periphery. They were also non-parasitic and self reflective and would never in any way challenge hegemonic subjects. This was the challenge that faced Hatoum after arrival in London (Sawchuk, 2014). Hatoum was divided as to whether to align with the new culture or remain within the Arabic culture. The Arab culture placed less emphasis on the role of women in the society instead giving a lot of freedoms to the male child (Shelton,2014). Another important philosopher who shaped the minds in regards to nomadic subjectivity was Judith Butler. According to the theory advanced by Judith, it was important that gender perfomativity was compulsive sin some subjects. Numerous works done by Hatoum raise questions as to why they are more associated with reactivating issues that surround gender perfomativity (Shelton, 2014). A good example is when the daughter and mother shower together and the effect to the society is quite significant. It can be stated that all issues in society surrounding culture, race, mobility and social alliances surround issue related to social alliance, sexuality and gender. Hatoum’s work provides an opportunity to rethink of the disjunctured personalities that are at the heart of different performance engagements. Hatoum has moved from different countries that have different cultural signs, semiotic systems and different beliefs. Immediately one got into the cloud of a new culture it takes the shortest possible time to make them stay at the said community without necessarily knowing their language and their cultural beliefs.  Hatoum’s beliefs in nomadic subjects and their shared conflicting processes that are bound to occur when   two or more cultures that have never come together meet for the first time (Shelton,2014). This is what happened when Hatoum came to London. There was already a conflict between different the Arabian and European cultures. In one of the works titled “Keffieh”, Hatoum makes a sculpture composed of human hair and cotton fabric (Lionis, 2014). The modernist grid that is normally used in the development of such structures is removed. This means that Hatoum created an image solely base on her associations. The Keffieh took the structure of a scarf normally worn by the Palestinian during the liberation struggles (Shelton, 2014). Hatoum started working on the scarf the same day that Oslo accords were signed. To accomplish such a task, certain materials were needed considering the piece of the work she was to work on. The first material was women black hair that would normally stick at the end of the Keffeh. Most artists argued against the use of women hair as it in one way or another since they considered the tissue to be composed of human tissues (Lionis, 2014). The hair outside the Keffieh is essentially made out of women and that the Keffieh is supposed to be held and used by women. However, this is never the case as more men wear the scarf’s more than women. For a long period in most of the Arab nations women had been denied of the opportunity to have equal rights as the same as their men (Lionis, 2014). This Hatoum inventory gave women more power to fight for something, to believe in something and fight for many demands from the society to ensure that they were sidelined from the occurrences taking place in these societies. The Keffieh model was initially to make Keffieh   a unisex product that could be bought by members of all communities (Shelton,2014). However, the recent refusal by most products to intermix the product drew irate responses from both sides of the divide with some stating that the product was on sale. Hatoum activities not only created an opposition back in the country side but also maintained some of the important components that are known to be values classified as women products. In other words, Hatoum played a role in politics by ensuring that women also got opportunities in politics circles.  Issues of sexual politics were never going to be utilized to guide the management or wife


Hatoum stands out as one of the few female artists of modern times. Born in Lebanon, Hatoum fails to return to the country of origin especially after the realization that it was quickly falling behind as a result of civil war. Unfortunately, her parents are not fortunate enough and remain in the area since they cannot afford moving out from the war zone. Hatoum manages to continue with her studies in London becoming one of the famous artists engaging in different forms of art including video production, poetry and artistry. This is what puts Hatoum in the spot light. Hatoum stands out as one of the most prominent internationally recognized people in respect to the considerations that were made especially in the arts field. The form of art has proved very essential as a tool that could be used to communicate information to different people without any bounds. Some of Hatoum’s work includes the Measures of Distance, and Art of Displacement: Mona Hatoum Logic of Irreconcilables. Most of these pieces of art were geared towards sending a particular message to the society. Measures of Distance sent a message of the differences in cultural differences and family relationships especially among people who were far away from each other. The second artistic activity Art of Displacement: Mona Hatoum Logic of Irreconcilables shows how people who suffered in different part of Palestine during the civil war. The original homes that were once a source of joy were tarnished and only very few belongings could be found that had depreciated in their homes. The last important activity that was more political happened to be the formation of the Keffieh, a scarf made with human hair. In most cases the hair utilized was that of women and therefore caused a lot of interests among different individuals. Men wanted the scarf to exclusive be part of men wear but Hatoum stood up and spoke against it urging women to fight for the same right as men.



Lionis, C. (2014). A past not yet passed postmemory in the work of Mona Hatoum. Social Text,   32(2 119), 77-93.

Said, E. (2000). The Art of Displacement: Mona Hatoum’s Logic of Irreconcilables. Mona            Hatoum: The Entire World as a Foreign Land, 8-18.

Sawchuk, K. (2014). 9 Gut Reactions: Mona Hatoum’s Corps étranger. Embodied Politics in        Visual Autobiography, 153.

Schulenberg, A. (2015). Sites and Senses Mapping Palestinian Territories in Mona Hatoum’s         Sculpture Present Tense. Radboud Studies in Humanities, 11.

Shelton, N. (2014). Mona Hatoum and the Biographical Influence on Cross-Cultural Exchange.    Journal of Undergraduate Research at Minnesota State University, Mankato, 12(1), 10.

Trasforini, M. A. (2013). Contemporary Art and the Sense of Place. The Case of Tunisia.  Archivio Antropologico Mediterraneo, 16(15), 13.