Mona Hatoum’s psychological surgery

Eileen G’Sell, lecturer in the writing program in Arts & Sciences


A floating cube of barbed wire. A circle of sand combed by steel teeth. A food mill with a shredder scaled to the size of a human body. In Mona Hatoum’s “Terra Infirma,” on view at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation through August 11, form colludes with a violent function; the domestic menaces, materiality imperils. From a glass bassinet that would shatter were an infant placed inside of it to a magic lantern projecting a series of Army soldier silhouettes, what seems pedestrian or ludic is soon to unsettle — our wonder summoned only to be swiftly darkened by dread.

Her first major U.S. solo show in 20 years, originally organized by the Menil Collection in Houston, “Terra Infirma” — a titular play on the Latin phrase for “solid ground” — reveals Hatoum’s enduring interest in what shakes us from below, above, and within. While the Beirut-born artist’s 40-year career has consistently invited interpretation based in institutional critique and the real-world tumult so many of her works reference, it is equally constructive to consider her work from a psychological, rather than political, vantage — one driven by pathos much more than polemic.

Read the full piece in Hyperallergic.

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