Summary

Divan Bed is made from patinated steel floor plate, and replicates very precisely the form of a small divan. The work is carefully detailed so that the top surface swells along the edges in the manner of a soft new mattress. Many of the traditional associations tied to the metaphor of the bed (rest, privacy, comfort) are denied in this work, as Hatoum presents images and materials which are more commonly associated with pain, discomfort, torture and abuse.Hatoum's 1989 retrospective at the Chapter Gallery in Cardiff marked a transition from performance and video work to sculpture and installation. The show included a number of pieces based on items of domestic furniture in which commonplace images, such as beds or chairs, were combined with references to systems of social and physical control. Since the Cardiff show Hatoum has continued to explore the metaphorical potential of domestic imagery, and the bed has been a frequent source of ideas. Another such work is Incommunicado, 1993 (Tate T06988), in which the image of a child's cot alludes to the pain and insecurity of the abused child, and to the complex psychological situation that victims of abuse often experience.Further readingMona Hatoum, exhibition catalogue, Arnolfini, Bristol 1993.

Terry Riggs
November 1997