Mona Hatoum b. 1952
Corps Étranger (1994)
This complex piece is composed of a cylindrical space with padded walls where the viewer is invited to enter and see a video of Hatoum’s internal body. As such, she makes use of indispensable medical imaging technology (that without, the work would not exist). Hatoum uses the strategy of abjection in displaying the internal cavities in a way that has the effect of swallowing up the viewer. The abject destabilizes boundaries.
The work also features aspects of biotourism (the transformation of bodies into landscapes and rendering the rendering of the invisible visible – her inner anatomy would otherwise remain foreign to her and to viewers but it becomes visible by generating images of the body’s inner architecture through visual mapping of her internal organs as well as her external shell – her skin)
There is a physical space one enters but immediately, the viewer feels like a force is pulling him/her in to be engulfed as we are given a perspective from above. She reveals the body’s unknown interior. Another layer of meaning has to do with the interaction of our bodies and her body: as we enter the cylindrical space, we become the foreign bodies entering her body. Another layer of meaning: relates the exploration of the foreign to her identity as a foreigner. Hatoum is a Palestinian artist (born in Lebanon but she is of Palestinian origin).