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In 1975, Mona Hatoum, born in Beirut to a Palestinian family, visited London as a 23-year-old tourist, only to become stranded here indefinitely when civil war broke out back home in Lebanon. A sense of rootlessness and the quest for a home familiar from myth, legend and the movies still courses through her work to this day.
That’s not the only thing which courses through Hatoum’s art. She’s known for wiring metal furniture and objects – cots, chairs, colanders – up to the mains, so that things which ought to provide comfort become potentially lethal. Easy viewing her art isn’t. Yet there’s a dose of surrealism to what Hatoum does. Humour, too, as in the ballsy billboard self-portrait ‘Over My Dead Body’ (1988, pictured above) in which she eyeballs a toy paratrooper perched on her nose. ‘The more people can relate to the stuff, the happier I am,’ she says.
Here's what she had to say about some of the key works in her new Tate Modern retrospective.