Friday, October 5, 2018

“Huma Bhabha: We Come in Peace.” At the Met’s rooftop garden

Two sculptures interact, the first a 12 foot tall totemic figure. It is a looming, sour faced, battle scarred, gender ambiguous alien of a figure. The materials are rough, hand sculpted by Bhaba herself. It seems to exert power over the second sculpture, a figure bent forward with arms extended towards the first, covered in a garment likened to a garbage bag. This second sculpture is called “Benaam”, the Urdu word for “unnamed”. 
This second sculpture taps into America’s fear of Islam, as its posture echoes the traditional Muslim ‘sujood’ position, an act of worshipping Allah with knees and head touching the ground. The first sculpture seems to demand complete dominance from the first. Perhaps this is a symbol of America’s need to dominate in world affairs, specifically in the Islamic world. 
These two sculptures elicit a reaction of fear, lack of understanding, ‘otherness’, perhaps also referencing our sci-fi fear of aliens attacking and taking over humanity. “It’s an anti-war narrative. It’s about a dead body… but it’s not necessarily dead, either,” Bhabha explains in an interview for the Met exhibition catalogue. She continues that "the potential for rebirth" also exists, leaving the audience with a glimmer of hope for change. 


  1. Your descriptions of the pieces really allowed me to re-imagine seeing them in person. You could even go as far as to mention the roughness of the materials and how the artist Bhabha sculpted them by hand herself. I'm glad you questioned the location of the sculptures as well but maybe you could explain how the "lunchers and selfie takers"'s interactions with the piece create another level of content and reveal the ignorance that surrounds art like this. Your piece is solid and almost narrative, making it an enjoyable read.

  2. Your description of Huma Bhabha’s work is wonderful. I can actually see the sculptures in front of my own eyes while reading your review. I appreciate that you addressed the appropriateness of choosing the Met as an exhibition venue for these politically charged sculptures. It might be worth mentioning here that “We come in Peace” was a commission and therefore specifically created for the Met’s rooftop garden. I really like that you described the reactions of the other visitors, but maybe you could also mention how the location interacts with the artwork and what almost stage-like background the skyline of Manhattan forms for these two sculptures.

  3. I like the structure you use in the review. It is really clear and narrative and makes me feel like actually experiencing the show. I like your argument "Perhaps this is a symbol of America’s need to dominate in world affairs, specifically in the Islamic world." It will be great if you really dig in to this part and do some research. The only thing I think you might consider is thinking about the use of certain word like "perhaps". It sounds not really assure. Maybe think about an other way to convey the same meaning. Also avoid using the same words over and over.