Interview #14

Monia Ben Hamouda

Monia Ben Hamouda (Milan, 1991) studied at Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera (Milan). Her work has been exhibited at RivoliDue, BAG, Milano Film Festival, PANEproject, Marsèlleria Permanent Exhibition and VIAFARINI (Milan); gallery (San Francisco); The Wrong Digital Art Biennale (Hong Kong); Werkschauhalle (Lipsia); Yongma Charm (Seoul); Ginny Projects (London); OJ (Istanbul); ; Like a Little Disaster (Polignano a Mare); UNIVERSITÄTSSAMMLUNGEN KUNST and ALTANAGalerie (Dresden); Link Art Center For The Arts Of The Information Age (Brescia); Haunt (Yogyakarta).

Fluidity of bodies is a rather central element in your work; you’re interested in the fact that its use always implies a partial loss of control over the work, some sort of apparent passivity, which allows your work to be suspended between one state and another. Where does this fascination for liquids come from?

Liquid is important because it’s at the basis of a sculptural procedure that appears indirect, passive; It takes the form by which it’s hosted and permits that aggressive passivity which allows the form to be ‘existed and then extinct’. Using it, I could watch the sculpture self-generating in a decision-not-decision, as almost wanting not to take responsibility for its own actions. I wanted to use this feature, rather than fear it. Forms collapse and struggle to be present, but the attempt to ‘force them’ into a form, into a gesture that is halfway between hyper-monitoring and acceptance is, at the same time, equally evident. The work is compliant, but also ready to attack you. I named this characteristic ‘weak-force’.

You’re also generally interested in materials and forms’ intrinsic symbolism, to which you often refer in order to create amulets-like objects…

I try to isolate ‘powers’, turning them it into a past event: in this way the work becomes a container of a now lost power, compliant but violent. My works show a feeble electrostatics, they seem incomplete, amputated, a useless trophy of themselves. I’m fascinated by the idea of forcing symbolization, because it represents the desire to give a name and an identity to everything and to every material, even the most insignificant, such as for example, pork for Muslims. They’re all symbols, but symbolization itself is impossible; No representation allows me to access the real, no matter how hard I try… And in their failure they find the weak-power I was talking about. They self-protect themselves, as if amulets of themselves.

On a formal level, the search for a ‘democratic’ balance emerges from your most recent works, where colors and compositions are chosen with the aim of avoiding a focal point within each work. What led you to this refusal for hierarchical dynamics?

I like to think that there’s some sort of democracy among the materials that shape the work. The motivation has to do with symbolization, but also with the feeling of indecision-decision that completely permeates my practice.

Getting back to the lack of control: when you’re unable to physically bring your works to exhibition venues, you commission their realization to curators or art handlers, aware that this could lead to unpredictable results. What interests you in this process?

In recent years I’ve had the occasion to exhibit my work abroad, and it often happened that, for various reasons, it was realized by others. Indeed, I happened to design works with the specific purpose of being realized by handlers. To see a gesture that ‘invisibly’ differs from mine is stimulating, because my work once again forces me to reflect on the concept of passivity, acceptance of sculptural events, and responsibility for gestures; mine but others.

You use the assembly technique, because you’re interested in “using reality as a sculptural material“. Is this an attitude linked to your past experiences, in particular with video making?

The media of video forces you to use existing things for what they are, showing them not only as a plastic material, but also as a narrative possibility. Using this approach with sculpture has been a natural process; I like to think of assembly as a technique for reality exploitation.

You lived in Italy, Tunisia and Finland. Do you think that relating to three cultures so different from each other for a long time influenced your practice?

I think of geography as a fluid element. Having lived close to two of the one hundred thousand Finnish lakes has influenced the choice of some materials I use; furthermore my fascination for symbolization and representation possibly descends from my North African roots.

In 2017 you founded Something Must Break with Michele Gabriele. How was this curatorial project born?

Something Must Break was born from the strong need to work, together, at an environment that could satisfy our linguistic necessities. The project allowed us to relate to the surrounding territory as well as to the most distant or virtual ones; we use the exhibition landscape as a central element, to read and translate the works made by the artists we collaborated with. SMB is the place where these needs and reflections of ours can find their place, allowing us to face them with greater clarity.