The following interpretations of Mona Hatoum's art work come from a unique project at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST) in 2017. Face Forward …into my home was an interactive art project focused on the stories of people who have been forced to leave their homelands and were rebuilding their life in Greece. It included storytelling workshops inspired by a selection of contemporary artworks from the collection of EMST, the photo shooting of portraits, and a photography exhibition about and with refugees and asylum-seekers, then living in the greater Athens area. Link
Μaya, 26 years old / Tunisia
The title of Yael Kanarek’s work, Heart in Heart, caught my attention. For me, the ribbons were like people who all start from the same point but then gradually each goes down his or her own path and gets farther and farther away. I like the color and the material, which is expensive and elegant. It reminded me of the clothes I wore during the performances I gave when I was working in Tunisia. The pink ribbons allude to childhood, but they could also refer to a wedding dress. And because the ribbons are hanging from two hooks, maybe the work is talking about a couple, two persons who are different but who live together. Perhaps the artist used the hooks because she was hurt in her own relationships. But even if that’s the case, I saw one hook that’s taller—that’s the man—and another one that’s shorter, which is the woman, who’s being embraced by the man. Maybe they were both hurt but are staying together in each other’s arms nonetheless. When I found out there are love letters written on the ribbons, which are exchanged between two persons who live far apart, I also saw a part of my life: my boyfriend is in another country in Europe now; because of the distance we’re not in a relationship but we keep in close touch.
I want to think positively. When I think about negative things, I cry, and I don’t want that happening to me. I’m a positive person. Sometimes when I feel down, I open a small window into my memory and focus on the good things I’ve experienced. I love life, I love people, and I want to be active—and a dreamer, too. I like doing simple things: cooking, eating healthy, listening to music, calm retro music like Edith Piaf, and enjoying a meal out with friends. Every morning I open my window and say good morning to life—and good morning to the world.
Patricia, 34 years old / Cameroon
…the work that influenced me most of all is Heart in Heart by Yael Kanarek, which looks like a wedding dress hanging from hooks. There is something hard and violent about it, far from gentle, cheerful and pleasant. When I learned that the love letters of two people living apart from each other are written on the ribbons, my thoughts immediately travelled to my relationship, to my girlfriend who stayed back. It is the first time I’ve had a relationship from a distance and I can see how painful it is. We think about each other, we communicate through social media. But as time goes by, I feel despair, because I see that, in fact, there can be no relationship. When you live with your partner, however difficult it is sometimes and whatever problems there are, you have the chance to face them. When you are apart, the problem is permanent. I do not know who invented love, but it is the hardest thing on earth. In Cameroon they say that “love is a fool.” It causes problems, it upsets you, it can even hurt you, while the beautiful moments are few. Who hasn’t cried over it? I do, often. In order not to think about her, I try to fill my time with activities or housework. And that takes my mind off things.
Although thinking about all this made me cry, in the end I felt positive. I was even keener to work, earn money and be able to go for a few days to see my girlfriend and then return to Greece. I know that when we ask something from God with all our might, He will give it to us. And I still know that happiness is always within us and God sends it to us.
Aboud, 26 years old / Syria
…our dreams and actions must have a deeper purpose and we should not start from emptiness. This is what I thought when I saw the work Heart in Heart by Yael Kanarek with the ribbons hanging from a hook that secures and binds them together. As if to say that, in life, toughness coexists with tenderness, logic with emotion, and one complements the other.
During the few days that we met up, I felt like we were family. Although I’m not the type to open up easily, these works of contemporary art that I was seeing for the first time gave me the opportunity to talk about how I feel, my past experiences but also about the dreams that I have for my future.
Farida, 28 years old / Afghanistan
…in life you have to stand on your own two feet and move forward, regardless of where you end up. If things were going well in our country and there was no war, we would have stayed there. We are now scattered all over the world, just like the ribbons in the work Heart in Heart by Yael Kanarek which hang from a point up high and open out as they fall.