Film clip © Mona Hatoum

Don't Smile, You're on Camera!

Mona Hatoum

  • Year 1980
  • Edition Unlimited edition
  • Material/Technique Single-channel video (b/w, sound) on monitor
  • Dimensions Variable
  • Length 11'
  • Category Media art

The black-and-white video film Don't Smile, You're on Camera! was created in the context of Five Days at Battersea Arts Centre festival.

Using a handheld camera, Hatoum filmed the audience seated in front of her, focusing first on their faces, then wandering down their bodies before lingering on their crotches. The images were transmitted directly onto a monitor—located on the opposite wall— in real time. These images were superimposed with unrelated images of nude and X-rayed human bodies. This created the illusion that Hatoum could use her camera to look through people’s clothes and thus inside them. The voyeuristic situation prompted different reactions in the audience: Some held their jackets over their laps in shame, while others posed wide-legged for the camera. The audience was unaware that—for this cinematic event—Hatoum had placed three assistants behind the scenes. The three simultaneously filmed themselves naked and mixed their footage in with Hatoum’s. At the end of the performance, the artist turned the camera on herself and began to seductively unbutton her blouse. Contrary to expectations, no naked breasts appeared, just the words "The End" projected on a black T-shirt.

For the video film Don't Smile, You're on Camera! Hatoum condensed the footage she filmed with her handheld camera with documentary footage of the 40-minute performance into a sequence of eleven minutes. The work presents an interplay between voyeurism and exhibitionism and thematizes the video camera as an instrument of power and a tool of self-reflection.

Mona Hatoum

100 pages, 150 ill., hardcover
2011, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern
ISBN 978-3-7757-3153-9
€ 25,00

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