Mona Hatoum: We're Still Here, Alter Istanbul
by Deniz CAGLAR
Destruction, displacement, war, murder, exile, the chaos, the battle… These are inevitable in Palestinian-Lebanese Mona Hatoum's "We're still here," named exhibition, in After, Istanbul. 1952 born video, performance and installation artist lives in exile in London and Berlin after the war erupted in Lebanon in 1975. This is the main source of the unique works of the artist that impresses the viewer both emotionally and intellectually.
The visual language of the exhibition is both surrealist and minimalist. On the first floor of the exhibition, "Bunker" work is on display, which Londoners might have seen at White Cube Gallery last year. The work is made of steel boxes consist of 22 modules. These architectural-shaped modules look like the debrises of post-war buildings. As one wanders, they give the sense of being in a ghost town, rather than visiting an exhibition. The artist’s past, the intense emotions of being lived in the exile is so obviously reflected in this work.
During the 1980s, Hatoum engages in performance art and shifts to produce colossal installations after the 90’s. The aim here is to be able to show fear, excitement, desire, disgust, the chaos, at the same time.
One of the most unique works on the first floor is the sculpture called "Grater Divide", made up of domestic kitchen objects. The artist alienates the objects so skillfully that the audience perceives them as if they are menacing, uncanny and threatening objects. Being influenced from Duchamp's ready-made concept, Hatoum shows us the most extreme form of minimalism. As one looks at Grater Divide, it may first seem like a sympathetic toy, however with the interpretation of Hatoum it becomes an object of danger.
On the second floor, the huge "Worry Beads" installation is being displayed. It is a rosary beads made up of cannon balls which again makes reference to the war in Lebanon. This object used for prayer or to relax your mind in real life, actually gives connotations of war and destruction with the interpretation of Hatoum. What makes everything look even more mysterious is; voices whisper in the distance, as if someone is following you.