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Jumping scale, mapping space: feminist geographies at work in the art of Mona Hatoum

  • Author(s): Khullar, Sonal
  • et al.

My paper focuses on critical interventions into space and scale in the work of contemporary artist Mona Hatoum over the past decade. Drawing on the work of feminist geographers Doreen Massey and Gillian Rose, I argue that Hatoum imagines the home as contiguous with other sites in the world – prison cells, transit quarters, curfew zones, refugee centers, resettlement areas, internment camps, industrial farms and office parks – whose intimate relationships to the everyday, the familiar and the homely are often elided.

Massey and Rose critique the masculinist biases of humanist geography by which the normative subject of space remains male and the home comes to be the place of male repose (and indeed its corollary, female labor). In Hatoum’s art, which takes the form of sculptural objects and electrically-charged installations, it is impossible to maintain the idea of a home apart from the world. By marshalling a critical notion of scale, in its artistic and geographic senses, Hatoum shows that there is no utopian space outside for resistance and rather that a revolutionary project must be negotiated between spaces. Whereas art historians have tended to analyze individual works of art, the notion of scale allows us to consider a larger spatial argument being made across Hatoum’s body of work. Specifically, I propose a dialectical relationship of appropriation and domination, to use Henri Lefebvre’s terminology in The Production of Space (1974), between Hatoum’s installations, Home (1999) and Homebound (2000), and her sculptural objects, Traffic (2002) and Grater Divide (2002).

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