British of Palestinian origin, born Lebanon, 1952
+ and -, 1994–2004
Steel, aluminum, sand, and electric motor
10 5/8 inches (27 cm) high, 157 1/2 inches (399.4 cm) diameter
General Purchase Funds, 2007
Mona Hatoum's + and - is quiet and subtle in its implications and in part reflects her position as a British artist of Palestinian descent. Hatoum’s family left Haifa, Israel, in 1948 because of the Arab-Israeli War and settled in Beirut, Lebanon, where she was born in 1952. While Hatoum was visiting London in 1975, the beginnings of the Lebanese Civil War prevented her return home. Hatoum’s personal history is only one aspect of the potential meaning of + and -, as we each interact with the sculpture based on our own experiences and memories. Many viewers recall visits to the beach, enjoy the quiet sound, and are immersed in the work's hypnotic quality as the arm continues around and around at a consistent rate of speed. One side of the arm contains toothed projections that carve even rows in the sand; the other is a flat edge that erases them. Like culture and history, the surface constantly changes, yet also remains the same, conjuring thoughts of not only creation and destruction, but also the making and erasure of history and memory and the displacement and resettlement of populations.
Related Lesson Plan
Experiencing Sculpture (For Grades K–12)
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