The Camel Project

Winner of the "Best in Show" award at the 2011 Arts and Cultural Alliance Annual Juried Exhibition in Knoxville, TN and the People's Choice Award at the 2010 Lyndon House Arts Center 35th Juried Exhibition in Athens,GA.

This piece was also written about in the January of 2011 issue of V3 magazine. That article can be seen by clicking this link and going to pages 36-39.

Video editing and production by me, Rob Dellenback. Music for video by Tim Hecker. Slide photography by Avery Johnson.

Brief Description:
Life size camel contructed of steel, burlap, and thousands of the smoked cotton filters from inside camel brand cigarette butts.

Artist's Statement:
This piece was conceived as a reflection on advertising. Globalization has created a commercial culture more pervasive than ever, placing the power to influence behaviors and attitudes of entire populations in corporate hands. The ethical problems of this shift in power become particularly urgent when the manipulation of public opinion is intertwined with public health, as it is in the case of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Joe Camel embodies the frightening ease with which our attitudes can be altered in his transformation from a plodding, smelly animal to the epitome of cool. I chose to use this iconic image to juxtapose the seductive nature of advertising with the recent shift in attitudes about smoking, a practice that was once viewed in a glamorous light and has now become a crude, filthy habit. This piece becomes especially relevant when considering the current debate on health care. Practices like smoking can effectively divide a country in situations such as this.

As I continued my exploration of commercial culture, packaging, consumption, and waste began to emerge as key concepts. The idea of using smoked cotton cigarette filters to simulate camel fur stemmed from an interest in packaging. It also opened the piece to dialogue about waste. The sense of repetition created by covering a large object in such small increments emphasizes the power of consumption. The scale of the piece and the smell of the cigarette filters work together to give the camel a powerful olfactory and physical presence, evoking the colossus of advertising.

Artist statement written by Emily Bender.