Mona Hatoum b. 1952
Variations On Discord and Divisions (1984)
This 40-minute filmed performance was presented for the first time in 1984 at the New York art centre ABC No Rio. Since Mona Hatoum refuses to produce the same work twice, she generally creates one single site-specific performance. However, in 1984, she decided, with Variations on Discord and Division, to provide an action that could be adapted to different spaces. She thus offered several possibilities for actions and “variations”. Through this performance and the various forms that it may take, the artist deals with notions of exile, war and oppression. This work consists of several little abstract scenes, which represent for the artist ways of experimenting with specific situations. Newspapers arranged in rows covering the floor and walls delimit the space of action: the newspapers symbolise the compilation and dissemination of information that is often censored by the governments and the media. The artist is anonymous, dressed in black with her face covered in an opaque black stocking, presenting herself to the audience as a body. And this body crawls on the floor, amidst the spectators, to reach the stage of the performance. By way of small scenes, the artist places herself in situations that are simultaneously absurd, when she strives to clean the floor, in vain, because the water is tainted red; ridiculous, when she tries to sit on a chair and falls down; and violent, when she attempts to take off certain parts of her face by piercing the stocking she is wearing with a knife, or when she takes raw kidneys from under her clothes, cuts them and offers them to the audience. She finishes the performance by ripping strips of newspapers, like an act of liberation.