Mona Hatoum, Under Siege, 1982
Mona Hatoum
Under Siege

The artist was born in 1952, a daughter of Palestinian parents in Beirut. She studied at the Beirut University College and the Byam Shaw School of Art and the Slade School of Art in London. In her oeuvre of performances, moving images, photography, sculptures and installations, she focuses on the vulnerability of the human body when faced with violence. Her work not only deals with political issues, but also with personal experiences in connection with her Middle Eastern background and her experiences as an immigrant in England and Germany. She took part in the Venice Biennale in 1995 and 2005 and has received numerous international awards, including the Joan Miró Prize in Barcelona (2011), the Käthe Kollwitz Prize in Berlin (2010), the Rolf Schock Prize in Stockholm (2008) and an honorary doctorate from the American University of Beirut (2008). In 2016, Tate Modern in London staged a "comprehensive exploration" spanning 35 years of Hatoum's work in Britain.

This early performance by Mona Hatoum directly refers to her parents’ homeland, Palestine. The artist is covered in clay and trapped inside a glass container. She tries to stand upright, but keeps falling down and trying to stand up again, leaving traces on the glass with her body and her hands while trying to support herself. In the room, revolutionary songs in Arabic, French and English, news reports and statements can be heard that are all directly tied to the political situation in the Middle East. This performance was also accompanied by a leaflet with the following statement by the artist: “As a Palestinian woman this work was my first attempt at making a statement about a persistent struggle to survive in a continuous state of siege. [...] As a person from the ‘Third World’, living in the West, existing on the margin of European society and alienated from my own [...] this action represented an act of separation [...] step- ping out of an acquired frame of reference and into a space which acted as a point of reconnection and reconciliation with my own background and the bloody history of my own people.”

Courtesy Mona Hatoum

Document media
Photographs, drawing, text

Issue date

conflict, durational performance, exhaustion, resistance, state oppression, violence