Homebound (2000) is an art installation created by Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum.
Hatoum was born in Beirut to Palestinian parents. In 1975 during a visit to London she was prevented from returning to her home after war broke out and was subsequently exiled in the UK. Her work covers such subjects as violence, oppression and voyeurism, often incorporating the artist’s feminist ideals.
Homebound reflects the private domain so often associated with female creativity. The installation comprises of a kitchen setting with domestic metallic furniture (e.g. table, lamp, utensils). However, all objects are connected by wires. Hatoum also utilizes light bulbs which flicker and sounds of electric humming to intensify a disconcerting atmosphere. Electricity runs through the work like blood through a living body.
The artist subverts expectations of the familiar household space, while raising issues ranging from the anguish of domestic drudgery and the claustrophobia of gender roles to domestic and state violence.
Horizontal wires which restrict access to this arena combine suggestions of home, prison and torture, highlighting the underlying threat of the domestic environment. Ideals of home as a perceived place of safety and nurturing are therefore replaced by ideas of physical and psychological harm.
Offering such a view of domestic life far from the traditional ideal, may also be considered with the artist’s origins in Beirut and relocation to the West. In terms of her work the artist however challenges stereotyping, in addition to imperialist and simplistic definitions stating:
“I’m often asked the same question: What in your work comes from your own culture? As if I have a recipe and I can actually isolate the Arab ingredient, the woman ingredient, the Palestinian ingredient. People often expect tidy definitions of ‘otherness’…….whether it’s the housewife or the woman feeling entrapped……or whether it’s to do with a condemned environment where the inhabitants have to flee, or an environment that is to do with incarceration…. or the notion of the home denied……”
The work therefore provokes many complex interpretations concerning such issues as gender, dislocation, ethnicity, identity and war.
On the instillation the artist states:
“it becomes a sort of threat as opposed to comfort and then makes you think about all the possible unpleasant things to do with home…… what I like to do with these works is to like introduce a kind of disruptive element, physical or psychological element, that makes you question the whole environment.”
When addressing the work in conjunction with the artist’s feminist perspective, it is imperative to consider however that violence by males against females is a global epidemic. In the UK more than two women a week are murdered by men in domestic violence.
In situations of conflict women also face widespread particular abuses. Sexual violence including rape is common. In addition to rape, girls and women are also subject to forced prostitution and trafficking during times of war, often with the complicity of governments and military authorities.
In terms of ideas of ‘home’ nearly 80 per cent of the 53 million people uprooted by wars today are women and children. As well as issues of death, poverty and hardship women also face an increase in the instances of male violence within the home during times of civil unrest and conflict.
In the light of these facts Hatoum’s transforming of familiar, every-day, domestic objects such as chairs, toys and kitchen utensils into threatening and dangerous items therefore takes on a particularly disturbing relevance.