“We come in peace”, the often-copied line voiced by aliens from the film The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), is also the title of the Pakistani-born, New York-based artist Huma Bhabha’s bronze sculptures unveiled today on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden (17 April-28 October). The eerie scene of extraterrestrial visitation is recreated in the site-specific installation: a five-headed 12-foot-tall humanoid figure, We Come In Peace (2018), faces an 18-foot-long bowing blob, Benaam (2018) which is the Urdu word for “without a name”.
Karachi-born Bhabha, who lives in New York state’s Hudson Valley, is the first Pakistani American selected for the honor. Imran Qureshi, based in Pakistan, was the first Pakistani artist to present work for the commission, in 2013.
Bold, dramatic and thought-provoking, the weather-proof figures cast in bronze have political undertones, reflect social concerns and reference ancient African and Indian sculpture, according to the Met.
“It’s what is brewing in your head,” Bhabha told AFP, insisting she wants visitors to make their own interpretations. “I don’t want to necessarily say it’s this or that because that closes the conversation, but there are lots of different scenarios that one can come up with.”
Nor does she join the chorus in Democrat-heavy New York that focuses blame on US President Donald Trump for what many in the city see as the country’s ills.
“It goes beyond Trump,” she said. “Yes, he has made everything very vulgar and very in your face. But I think there are problems that have been existing much before he took over,” she said. “I think we’re in very dark times.”