the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

de Zegher on Hartoum’s dirt and disorder

Posted by rigorousm on November 22, 2016

“The work horrifies some, who avoid contact with Hatoum’s bodily rejects as if they threaten defilement. A stray hair on a shirt or a dress or a coat is instantly brushed away. While connoting beauty and identity, the most delicate, eroticized and last of human materials is also considered unclean, as ‘matter out of place.’ To quote Mary Douglas… ‘dirt is essentially disorder; there is no such thing as absolute dirt: it exists in the eye of the beholder.’ This approach implies two conditions: ‘a set of ordered relations and a contravention of that order. Dirt then, is never a unique, isolated event. Where there is dirt there is system. Dirt is the by-product of a systematic ordering and classification of matter, in so far as ordering involves rejecting inappropriate elements.’ Leading us directly into symbolic systems of purity– and consequently towards issues of power and oppression– Hatoum’s work is a complex reflection on bodily pollution, involving the relation of order to disorder, being to non-being, form to formlessness, life to death. … the screened yet excessive presence of an absent, dispersed body.”

Catherine de Zegher, “Hatoum’s Recollection: About Losing and Being Lost,” 88-107 in Mona Hatoum.p 93.

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