Mona Hatoum shows TateShots around her studio, an old shop in the heart of Berlin. Hatoum explains why she feels the need to make things on a daily basis, continually working to create art that plays with conflict and contradiction, changing the viewer's perception of everyday objects.
My name is Mona Hatoum and we are in my Berlin studio. I don’t consider myself very much to be a studio based artist because I tend to work in many different situations.
This is the largest room in my studio and as you can see it’s a shop front, which is quite nice, on the ground floor. I like to be occupied on a daily basis, making things myself, mostly making very small discreet objects. This is something actually from an installation called Interior Landscape and now it’s falling apart so I’ve had to remake it. So, this is the kind of handmade things that we do in the studio.
This is a piece I made in Na’amat in Jordan, you know, going to junk shops and picking up pieces of furniture. It’s called Static. It’s people with static lives who just sit around in those kind of situations. This is another room, which was supposed to be an office. This work on the floor, it’s called Balochie Bloom. We have taken the pile out of certain areas so it looks like it’s been worn out but then you realise that those patches make up a world map.
Often the work is about conflict and contradiction and that conflict or contradiction can be within the actual object. A work like Untitled (Wheelchair) on the one hand the person who would use this wheelchair would need someone to wheel them around but the presence of the knives makes you think that they resent that dependence. There’s a whole kind of internal conflict happening within that piece.
In the work called Incommunicado, which is an infant’s cot but it has these bars that are there for protection normally but when you approach it you realise that the platform has been removed and instead you have these very taught wires. So, immediately your perception of the object turns into the opposite. It’s not anymore about protection it’s more about a situation of abuse or danger.
Sometimes the situation I’m working in can be politically charged. For instance, in 1996 I was doing an exhibition in Jerusalem and I came across this map of the Oslo Agreement which was drawn between Israel and the Palestinians. So, I decided to actually draw this map on a bed of soap. Maybe instinctively I did it on soap so that the implication is it’s a temporary material and eventually it will dissolve and with it all these borders will disappear. At the time we didn’t think about conservation very much so it’s all drying out and shrinking and going brown. So, now what we’re doing with the fresh soap is we’re covering it with Liquitex to seal the moisture in so that hopefully it will stay like this.
I always say the most exciting thing about being an artist for me is that I never know where the next exhibition is going to take me to in the world and what I will end up making, and I find this very exciting, that not knowing.