Mona Hatoum is considered to be one of the avant-garde artists of the modern art. She was able to showcase to the world her strong perceptions about humanity, vivid emotions brought by human relations and intense experiences throughout her lifetime that were all displayed in all of her artworks. During the onset of Hatoum’s career, it was through “visceral performance art” that she was able to acquire the attention and interest of some art enthusiasts.
But in the 1990s, she diverted her focus in generating “large-scale installations that aimed to engage the viewer in conflicting emotions of desire and revulsion, fear and fascination. ” Because of this, she gained a new following that made her more popular. Hatoum was able to make ordinary objects such as a chair to look like “foreign, threatening and dangerous” objects (Whitecube. com). One of her installation works that garnered the public’s curiosity was Corps etranger which “critically comments on particular aspects of contemporary visual culture, such as the colonization of the body’s interior by medical image technologies.”
This unusual work of art is “relatively small, oval-shaped space with two entrances. ” On the ground level of the installation is bright circular shape which has video images which show the human skin as well as the inner parts of the body. Inside the tight installation, viewers can hear breathing sounds and beating of the heart. (Van de Vall). Looking at this may seem pointless and repulsive because it played around on the presentation of images of the body that are rarely seen by the public.
One may even think that this should not even be considered as art because it does not showcase any visual element or principle of design. But for Hatoum this was a means for demonstrating the significance of the human body – internally and externally. Her use of medical images and technology, she created a “relative autonomy for art and the history of its production and reception, and conceive of it as a meaning generating practice that at least partially works on its own terms” (Van de Vall).
In contrast with the Seated female with reproductive organs by Andreas Vesalius which was made from wood in 1580, Corps etranger may seem less absurd because in the former, a female in a seated position is shown with all of her internal organs moving out of her body (Northwestern University). The Corps etranger only showed the human body in bits and pieces making it not easy for the viewers to decipher the whole picture and meaning of the installation.
In the Seated female with reproductive organs, the intention of the artist was to educate viewers about the female human reproductive system thus the justification for the display of body organs. More so, in the 18th century, “interest in scientific empiricism and the institutionalization of birth and reproduction signaled the beginning of the decline of the midwife’s role in society and the birth room. ” Both men and women became interested to join this practice but the men were able to take dominance in this field (Guenther).
Overall, Corps etranger deviated from the traditional “Renaissance representation of the body as a triumph of anatomy and psychological awareness. ” Instead, Hatoum boldly illustrated the installation as an “abject, base matter. ” Moreover, the people’s natural dislike for visceral surfaces combined with “uncomfortably extreme proximity conveys a constant atmosphere of danger in this revealing yet unfamiliar world” (Portfolio. mvm. ed. ac. uk). Hatoum had successfully introduced a new concept into the world that manifested changes as well as transformation.