REVIEW: MONA HATOUM – ‘BUNKER’ – 25TH FEBRUARY TO 2ND APRIL 2011 – WHITE CUBE

Wow. I am really bad at regular blog posts. Sorry about that. Student!

MONA HATOUM – ‘BUNKER’ – 25TH FEBRUARY TO 2ND APRIL 2011 – WHITE CUBE

Photograph by Gautier Deblonde

Hidden amoungst the pristine architecture of Picadilly and its swarms of businessmen and silver-spooned shoppers, is the tranquil slab of concrete down Mason’s Yard known as the White Cube gallery. Their main attraction for the next month is the Palestinian born installation artist Mona Hatoum. Her exhibition ‘Bunker’ (showing until April 2nd) is a collection of three installations that use the sharp and clinical white space of the gallery to lure us into her world of conflict and political upheaval in the Middle East. If, like me, you’ve never heard of Hatoum before then look her up in your ’20th Century Art Book’ by Phaidon before you go. In fact, i’d recommend taking it along to every exhibition you go to. The book will tell that she was exciled to London because of the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon in 1975, leading to most of her work being “implicitly informed by her experiences as a forced stranger isolated from her homeland’ (pg 191). This is what she came up with.

‘Suspended’

The first room has 23 swings hanging from the ceiling. There is no other way of seeing it unless you read the press release for the exhibition. The swings are suspended about half a meter from the ground by thick black chains and have been placed at random angles. As you walk into the installation and inspect further, you notice that each swing has a patent red surface with black map markings engraved into it. These are locations taken from different continents across the world and symbolise cultural separation, “alluding perhaps to the constant flux of migrant communities across the world”. Multiculturalism, which is basically what this long winded press release is saying, would surely create a connection because of the mingling of cultural communities instead of a segregation (if you would use that word). The problem with this work is that if you’re not from a place where there is “geographical dislocation” (which may or may not be the middle east) then this work means nothing to you. Whatever mood the artist was trying to create with this installation has been destroyed due to close proximity of the reception and the loud phone calls of the receptionist. This is what your Average Joe would see in this installation:

The Average Joe walks in to a big room full of swings and instantly thinks of parks and children.  As the Average Joe walks amounst the swings, they notice that some move on their own. If you have any grasp of simple physics, this is because of the pendulum affect. However, because of our exposure to horror films, all we can deduce is that there must be a ghost in the room. And that’s fine. I love a bit of horror in the broad daylight. So you can shove your “geographical dislocation” where the sun don’t shine, because the Average Joe would rather watch a horror film than hear about another unsolvable conflict in some country they never plan  to visit on the BBC news. And that is why this art fails.

‘Bunker’

Make your way downstairs and you really do feel like your going into a bunker. Clever.

Before we go any further, I would like to give you some preparation advice. If you haven’t seen the film ‘Children of Men’, then I would highly recommend doing so before seeing the second installation. Or just the scene where Clive Owen and the woman with the first born baby are running through the war zone in London at the end. If the film was real and, unlike Clive Owen, you stuck around until the end of the battle then ‘Bunker’ is what you would be left with. It’s the closest you are ever going to get to feeling like you’re in a war zone. The installation sits in a darkened room where you are confronted with sqaure sculptures of different sizes, fused together with box gurders. The edges have been eroded away with a torch to depict the idea of buildings ravaged by war. You feel as though you have walked into a war zone after the fighting has stopped, the morning after if you like. What makes this piece disturbing is that it’s so quiet. Not physically, but mentally. The hollow skeletons of the buildings look as though they were once full of life, but are now scorched and abandoned. You feel a coldness and sense of lonliness, even though life is teeming in the city streets above you. Yet a haunting feeling follows you as the sculptures change form as you circle them. Simple but very very ingenious.

‘3-D Cities’

It’s a map of Baghdad where the paper has been raised or inverted to symbolise places that have been bombed. Doesn’t take a very big stretch of the imagination. Hatoum isn’t even trying.

The Verdict.

If you’ve just come out of the Royal Academy and want to kill some time, go and have a look at ‘Bunker’ in the underground part of the White Cube. You can see the other two pieces on their website and the pendulum motion of the swings really isn’t as exciting as I made it out to be. You can’t get the full experience of ‘Bunker’ without inspecting it for yourself. However, it is not something to travel half way across London for and not have the intention of doing anything else in Picadilly. Especially with all these underground train closures at the weekend. Nightmare.

 


Christie’s “Post War and Contemporary Art” auction results!

Andy Warhol’s highly anticipated “self-portrait” sold for £10 million at Christie’s latest art auction in London, double the estimated price.

You could hear a pin drop in the auction house tonight as two art lovers, with rather large wallets, battled to out bid eachother for the screen print by the godfather of Pop Art, which was finally priced at exactly £10,795,250.

The piece, which had not been seen by the public for 37 years, was sold at their “Post War and Contemporary Art” auction.

“Self Portrait” was the main attraction amoungst many examples of modern art in the auction, in which bidders from all around the world took part.

Martial Raysee colourful portrait “Last Year in Capri” sold for the surprising amount of over £4 million which was sold to benifit a charitable organisation.

Other astronomically priced works of art included Adriana Varejao’s “Wall with Incisions a la Fontana II”, which made a profit of over £850,000 thanks to a Spanish phone bidder, the Chapman Brother’s highly controversial “Two Faced C**t” sold for just under a hundred grand and “Gone to Yours” by Ged Quinn which profited by over £130,000.

Other recognisable house hold names at the auction included Damien Hirst, Jenny Saville, Gilbert and George and Jean-Michel Basquiat.