MAC/VAL is opened every day of the week, except on mondays:
tuesday to friday, 10 h to 18 h
week-ends and holidays, 12 h to 19 h.

Closed on january 1st, may 1st and december 25th.

phone: 01 43 91 64 20
fax: 01 79 86 16 57

Access map

Place de la Libération
94400 Vitry-sur-Seine


Mona Hatoum


Mona Hatoum is one of the greatest artists
around today. She is nomadic and the
world is her metaphorical oyster as she
ceaselessly travels through it, redrawing
its boundaries trip after trip,
domesticating it as she goes – she whose
family had to learn how to live in a land
other than their own.
During her incessant peregrinations, Mona
Hatoum answered our invitation and spent
a few months in the MAC/VAL residency
programme, from November 2009 to May 2010.
Mona Hatoum’s parents were originally from
Haifa, in Palestine, the land they had to
leave in 1948 because of the war with
Israel. They settled in Beirut, where Mona
was born, grew up and did her secondary
schooling, in French. But it was English
she eventually chose, the language her
father spoke at the British embassy, where
he worked. In 1975, she went on holiday to
London, where she was thinking of studying.
Which is precisely what she did: the civil
war in Lebanon had started, and she could
not go home.
A whole family history was branded by
exile, departures, loss, and memories taken
with her or lost. A whole life spent
checking and situating her own existence,
first through performances, with her own
body (leading her to be linked with a
feminist trend in art), then by engaging
with the symbolic world of objects. With
them, and through them, she draws onlookers
into perceptible but also conceptual
experiences — and experiments.
Mona Hatoum’s oeuvre touches you because,
at first glance, it has the familiar and
moving character of something we know, and
recognise; it’s the stuff of memories. Her
visual vocabulary is that of the living and
the lived, of everyday objects, of what
surrounds us and forms us: beds, kitchen
utensils, maps, pillows and balls of hair
– objects that touch us, and are touched
by us. With this vocabulary, Mona Hatoum
sweeps us into a strange world, a terra
incognita; after the time of familiarity
and rediscovery, objects escape their
primary sense and rise up against the state
of things. Out of scale, made with
materials alien to their primary nature,
they become unrecognisable and unknown,
laden with another history.
Because the world is in a state of fusion,
because boundaries and borders are
artificial, the products of the geopolitical
forces that dominate people, because these
latter suffer from economic and political
ambitions, and because there are two worlds
that look at and confront each other, First
World and Third World, West and East, Mona
Hatoum questions the impossible situation
of being human. Balancing on the tightrope
of history, people try to forge their path
in an unstable world, to settle and create
a place for themselves.
This is the situation conjured up
by Suspendu, a one-off work created
by Mona Hatoum for the museum.
She says that she accepted the MAC/VAL’s
invitation because, in Vitry, she
discovered individual destinies echoing
her own family history, and destinies
today held in an architecture whose utopia
of yore no longer in any way corresponds
to contemporary reality. Above all,
Mona Hatoum has a desire to be forever
creating, and coming up against new
situations and new areas of expertise.
These ‘suspended’ destinies, still in
the making, are conjured up by a forest
of swings that trace in space an
impossible and moving mapping of the
world. Each seat is engraved with the map
of a capital or other city originally
associated with new arrivals. Cut out
cleanly in the wood, the plans, in their
layouts, are so many stigmata of history:
geometric and modern plans, plans with
broken lines, planless plans. The contrast
with the chains is brutal; heavy and
thick, these chains retain more than
they evoke flight and freedom. The seat
here is as if nailed to the floor,
imprisoned. Although the swing,
a cause of dizziness, is a sign
of childhood and games, and even,
in France, a place for amorous trysts,
in this setting it becomes the symbol
of the weight of memories and the
restrictions governing what one can
do with one’s life.
The strength of Mona Hatoum’s oeuvre
resides in the way it involves viewers
physically. Having no landmarks or
compass, they try to find the names
of cities and towns, to understand this
imaginary geography. But they also try
to blaze their own trails in this
unstable and dangerous world, which seems
to unravel as soon as it is broached.
It is an invitation, in the guise of
a game, to live the chilling experience
of the exile.