Best of the Day: Mona Hatoum and Erin Shirreff exhibits open – August 26, 2015

The ICA hosts works that stir the tactile imagination and shift between dimensions.

Welcome to Best of the Day, our daily recommendation for what to check out around town. If you do one thing in Boston today, consider this.

Mona Hatoum, Performance Still (1985/95

Mona Hatoum, Performance Still (1985/95) / Courtesy photo provided by the ICA

Ever listened to the sound of gently rustling papers or the quiet crackle of a record player, and felt your scalp tingle? Then you’ve experienced ASMR (or “autonomous sensory meridian response”), the Internet-spawned term for the pleasurable sensation that washes over you when presented with pleasant, calming stimuli. ASMR fans tend to gravitate to auditory experiences, but some contend that these “brain massages” can be visual—pleasing, orderly patterns, for instance.

The opposite of that—when instead of your brain tingling, your skin crawls—lies in the uncanny valley: Where the normal and mundane becomes fraught and unnerving, something that you want to look away from, but can’t. The body horror of David Cronenberg comes to mind, or the shudder-y animations of the Brothers Quay.

Add to that list the works of Mona Hatoum, whose sculptures and photographs are on display in the Seaport this week, as part of an ICA exhibit running through November 26.

Mona Hatoum works

Mona Hatoum works from top left, clockwise: Dormeuse (1998); T42 (1993-1998); Rubber Mat (1996); Van Gogh’s Back (1995).

Beirut-born artist Hatoum goes straight for the “tactile imagination,” with pieces such as Van Gogh’s Back, depicting mad whorls of hair painstakingly sculpted onto a hirsute body, or Rubber Mat, an intestine-like maze of jelly (well, silicone rubber) that you simultaneously want to poke and recoil from.

As the ICA puts it:

Over the past three decades, Mona Hatoum (b. 1952, Beirut, Lebanon) has explored the fine line between the familiar and the uncanny with her visceral body of work. Through the juxtaposition of incongruous materials, changes of scale, or the introduction of contradictory elements, she infuses commonplace and even banal objects with an element of danger, references to violence, or the capacity to inflict bodily harm.

This looming hint of menace in her works is meant to “speak both to the history of conflict in the artist’s homeland and to the comfort and safety provided by the domestic realm.”

But Hatoum’s exhibit isn’t the only opening at the ICA this week: As part of this week’s art double-header, Brooklyn-based artist Erin Shirreff will also be showcasing her works. Shirreff likes to play with “the complexities of representing sculptural objects in two dimensions.” Here, she’s created knife-like forms out of Plasticine and photographed them, their craggy textures captured on the smooth surface.

Exhibits run August 26–November 29, Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, 617-478-3100,