Like grafts, assembled with orange tree branches and parts of palm trees, forced to stay together, guardians of space.
Monia Ben Hamouda’s work weaves the web of tales and memories of her childhood and family history, of Tunisian origin. Her practice conjures an ancestral heritage through ritual, consisting in the way the artist places herself in front of the materials, chooses, assembles and composes them, configuring a process close to the shamanic. In this exhibition, large-scale elements reminiscent of fragments of doors, of architectural elements with geometries that allude to Arab constructions, rhyme the space. They configure between them rooms, voids, spaces that, perhaps, allow to be inhabited, offer shelter, refuge, protection.
Identity and the fractures that are present in it, in the stories shaped by the encounter between the inherited, the traditional, the networks of affection given and built throughout life, and the globalized present are expressed here as elements whose material and formal reminiscences let affections and influences ooze in complex and discordant compositions.
Historically, architecture has been a space of physical and spiritual protection, of refuge but also of connection, a device that invokes a transcendence that surpasses the earthly and the presentist. The relationship between spaces in Arab architecture is about combination, repetition and variation, creating a
complete interior world, filled with what is necessary for living not only in the real but also in the imaginary. It invokes a beyond, articulated through abstract and meticulous mechanisms that unravel on the most minute scale, in which calligraphy, geometry and the use of color articulate the formal and conceptual fabric of space. The door in some cases summons the sovereign authority, in others it is that element that unfolds in the arch, and orders a way of living based on the filtering of the intimate life and of the visible and the invisible.
Covered with aromatic spices, which carry with them their millenary medicinal, ceremonial and sensorial properties, these large sculptures articulate a previously decontextualized space as a habitable void. And then they unravel, they unfold. On the illumination of the exhibition space appear pieces similar to graphic elements that write in the air, reverberating with the calligraphy of the plasterwork that traditionally springs from the geometries of arches and Islamic doors.
The mixture of elements, identities and scales is subtly evident in another part of the space, invoking the impossibility of purity or control. It suggests a slow time, perhaps alluding to the historical, like an hourglass whose unit of measurement is long scale. It is a frame containing powders inside, spices like those that stain the larger pieces. These move slightly with each change or each time they are exhibited, as if it were a slow migratory movement.
The rhythms deployed in space are articulated on a variety of scales, from pigment to monument, from the movement of the hand to that of trans historical influences. A gradient, the idea of the existence of a link, arises in the irrational line that connects the private with the collective histories, the immediate with what remains.
Text by Paula García-Masedo