‘Measures of Distance’ is an artwork about exile and displacement. The work is a video piece which presents still images of the artist’s mother overlaid with text and audio in both English and Arabic. It was made by artist Mona Hatoum in 1988. Born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1952, Mona then moved to London to study art in 1975. During her visit to London war broke out in Lebanon which left her stranded and exiled from her home country. ‘Measures of Distance’ reflects the physical, emotional and cultural distance Mona experienced in her new adopted homeland. The artist uses her mother’s body as a symbol of home. In the video the figure of her mother appears half naked in the shower. These intimate images both scrutinize and celebrate her mother’s body. They candidly confront traditional stereotypes of women and explore the artist’s own relationship with her mother. Mona locks the image of her mother below sentences of decorative, Arabic text. They look like lines of barbed wire which make the figure appear even more distant and unreachable. The image of her mother could also be seen to stand as a metaphor for the loss of her homeland and for the war in Lebanon. Mona further explores her sense of loss with audio of taped conversations. The audio is recorded in both English and Arabic which makes it difficult for non-fluent speakers to follow the narrative fully. This reflects the difficulties in communicating between two different cultures. The exploration of the female form and personal relationship in ‘Measures of Distances’ challenges taboos and traditional ideas of identity.
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