Sunday, March 30, 2014

Camel, Needle, Representin' at U.S. Embassy Islamabad

Yeah, I don't understand that sculpture either 

The U.S. State Department has purchased for $400,000 a reproduction of that sculpture you see in the photo above, and will display it at the new U.S. Embassy that is now being constructed in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Acquisition of “Camel Contemplating Needle” by John Baldessari. Includes production cost related to the procurement of representational artwork to be displayed at the new US Embassy Islamabad and reproduction rights.

Representational artwork in embassies is intended for cross-cultural understanding through the visual arts, or something like that. So, what does that sculpture say about how the United States sees its relations with Pakistan? Is one of us the camel and the other the needle?

The only description of the sculpture I could find doesn't offer an interpretation:
John Baldessari's sculpture Camel (albino) Contemplating Needle highlights a confluence of belief from several different cultures. References to the camel and the needle appear in the Quran, Bible, and the Midrash [an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew scriptures].

A life-size dromedary with its neck extended inquisitively eyes a super-sized needle in a way which makes the viewer think it could actually pass through the needle's eye. The colorless beast with striking blue eyes is simultaneously intriguing and peculiar especially when stripped of its pigment and fur.

Interfaith dialog is extremely tricky ground for public diplomacy. In the first place, I don't think the camel-and-needle story means quite the same thing in its Koranic version (here) as it does in the New Testament. And, even if the Pakistanis interpret the sculpture in light of the biblical parable, surely they would see the United States in the role of the rich man who wouldn't give up his worldly goods in order to enter the Kingdom of God, and why do we want to send that message?

Must we always do such abstruse artwork? Wouldn't something more accessible be a better choice, I mean, if the goal is actually to achieve cross-cultural understanding and not just to put out art for art's sake?


Anonymous said...

TSB: We've given their corrupt military and civilian leaders so much cash I doubt if anyone will raise a fuss over an abstruse camel..unless we stop sending the cash. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: The disappeared plane has put the US Navy front and center.I find it hard to believe that modern subs could not detect the pings from an airplane. In 3 weeks I haven't heard the question asked. Would it have killed us to use a few of them? gwb

TSB said...

GWB: I thought about subs, and the SOSUS arrays we have on some seabeds for undersea surveillance. Apparently we didn't cover the Indian Ocean with SOSUS (no threat of Soviet subs there).

It looks like we and Germany are now sending unmanned "Abyss" deep sea subs to do a search. There are only three of them in the world, so they are not readily deplorable.

Anonymous said...

TSB: So how have we located lost subs with everyone dead in the past?
I think this plane is equivalent to that because they checked the battery storage area & found 120 degrees. It says right on em store in a cool place or you ruin battery life. Those beepbeeps probably stopped a week ago. gwb

James said...

GWB: A lot of noise out there underwater. Plus they may not be tuned to that particular noise.
TSB: I might be talking out of my hat on this, but I understood we don't use SOSUS any more relying on other means and methods.

Though it may seem the world is blanketed by surveillance, there are a lot of dark places electronic and image wise. You be surprise actually.

Anonymous said...

Those lates tweets are pretty good!
I like that gramma escaping Russian tyrrany and then working for the Russian Air Force. gwb

TSB said...

James: I think you're right about SOSUS; in my old age, that is the term that comes to mind when I think of seabed surveillance.

Small plane + big ocean = a mystery that might never be solved.

Anonymous said...

TSB: It's April 1 and I nominate the school system as the #1 joke in the country. Por ejemplo: Supt. Jose Fernandez's South Bay school district has just 6,600 students, five high schools and a $70-million budget.
His earnings: $674,559 last year.
My suggestion to improve: No cell phones in schools. Achievement would double in no time. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: If I could tweet:

In other words, the beatings will continue until morale improves! gwb