Eyes skinned and So much I want to say - VISUAL

VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art &
The George Bernard Shaw Theatre

Eyes Skinned and So much I want to say

Mona Hatoum

17 February - 12 May 2024

11am - 5.30pm Tues - Sat, 2pm - 5pm Sun
Tuesday - Sunday

Admission: Free

VISUAL is pleased to present two early video works by Mona Hatoum. So much I want to say and Eyes Skinned address both personal and universal politics as they relate to displacement, censorship, and violence. The artist’s experience as a Palestinian whose family was displaced to Lebanon, and then Hatoum herself to London, informs the reading of these works, along with addressing broader complex realities of the political landscape of the middle east.

So much I want to say shows a series of still images, revealing the face of a woman in close-up, filling the screen. The woman’s face is repeatedly gagged or covered in various ways by a pair of male hands. The phrase of the title is repeated over the images as an audio track. So much I want to say was filmed at the Western Front in Vancouver and transmitted to Vienna during a slowscan live video exchange: Wiencouver IV 1983. Within the context of satellite transmission, this work was intended to subvert the notion of easy flow of information through the electronic media and can be understood as alluding to the curtailment of expression faced by women generally in historically patriarchal contexts.

The later work Eyes Skinned intersperses footage, images and audio fragments documenting the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in the refugee camps in Beirut. The images are projected onto a pair of hands attempting to cover the eyes of a hooded figure that emerges gradually from the black background. The artist repeatedly carves at her own eyes with a knife as if attempting to peel them open and paradoxically, the images she is trying to see only appear when her hands cover her eyes. This juxtaposition highlights how political realities impact on both the individual and the collective, and how the traumatic experience of one might affect the other.

Taken together, when one considers the distance of time from when these works were made, the viewer is provoked to consider how history is continuously being repeated, and how present realities are both informed by, and entrench, the past.


Mona Hatoum was born into a Palestinian family in Beirut, Lebanon in 1952 and has lived and worked in London since 1975. She studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art, London (1975-1979) and Slade School of Fine Art, London (1979-1981).

Hatoum has worked in a diverse range of media, including performance, video, photography, sculpture, installation and works on paper. Her work deals with issues of displacement, marginalisation, exclusion and systems of social and political control.

Recent solo exhibitions include a major survey organised by Centre Pompidou, Paris (2015) that toured to Tate Modern, London and KIASMA, Helsinki (2016) and a large US survey initiated by the Menil Collection, Houston (2017) that travelled to the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St Louis (2018). In September 2022, Hatoum had three solo exhibitions that took place simultaneously in Berlin: Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.), Georg Kolbe Museum and KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art.

Hatoum has also participated in international group exhibitions, such as the Venice Biennale (1995 and 2005), Istanbul Biennial (1995 and 2011), Documenta, Kassel (2002 and 2017), Biennale of Sydney (2006), Sharjah Biennial (2007 and 2023) and Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2013).