Measures of Distance is a highly personal work that focuses on images of the artist’s mother in the shower, covered only by the Arabic text of her letters to her daughter. The mother’s lovingly photographed nude body clearly bears the signs of having birthed and nurtured children. Her letters, read aloud, gradually reveal the circumstances that have separated mother and daughter: they are Palestinian refugees. The artist has said this work "spoke of the complexities of exile, displacement, the sense of loss and separation caused by war. In other words, it contextualized the image, or this person, ‘my mother,’ within a social-political context." It is also an intensely emotional, intimate, and physically palpable portrait of a mother-daughter relationship filled with longing but undiminished by distance.
Born to Palestinian parents in Beirut, Mona Hatoum is known internationally as a video and installation artist. Though she has lived most of her life in England, her Palestinian identity and the notion of exile is integral to her art. This video was one of her first major pieces but her most iconic work—Prayer Mat—is also a part of LACMA’s collection (see AC1996.13.1).