Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Art of Paintball

I am beginning to love the different perspective of art stories in the online mag sure to bookmark this site. Here's a story that caught my eye this morning.

"An Iraqi artist locked himself in a room in Chicago for six weeks and lets Internet users shoot at him with a paintball gun, in order to draw attention to the situation of people in Iraq...

Bilal was born in 1966 in Baghdad and grew up in a Shiite family there. Although he already wanted to become an artist at that time, he writes, he was forced to study geography. But he also created pictures during his studies. They were critical of the Hussein regime, so he was arrested several times. After the Gulf War of 1991, when then-U.S. President Bush promised to help the Iraqis if they toppled Saddam, he took part in the resistance. Before the war broke out, he avoided being drafted and fled to Kuwait. From there he was expelled to a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia, where conditions were terrible, and from there he finally managed to reach the United States in 1992. Since 2001, he has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago...
It can also be asked what this kind of shooting gallery that extends from the virtual space into real space triggers in people. Will they be roused to work to end the violence? Or will they be encouraged to violence? It is still almost a computer game in which almost nothing can happen. Or is Bilal’s media action perhaps the template for a "snuff" installation in which, for money, the Internet users can shoot live ammunition at a prisoner?..." by Florian Rötzer


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm glad you posted this, because i had forgotten about this installation. i met wafaa at the diwan arab arts conference, where he presented on his work and spoke about this project as well. his digital media pieces are awesome, you should definately check them out. what is most interesting to me about this installation is the tension between being iraqi in american (this is less true for wafaa, since he grew up in iraq, than it is for many other arab american artists), and the way what he's doing is essentially a performance of iraqi life.

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this was actually in Newsweek (or MSNBC?) last week.

I thought (in addition to the obvious cultural/ethnic commentary) it was a really interesting illustration of the cruelty facilitated by the internet. Frequent studies are showing that, beyond identity theft and sexual predators, the internet is facilitating all kinds of cruelty including for instance expanding a schoolyard bully's reach into the home. I know that I was tempted to hit the innacuous button and had to remind myself that there was a real person on the other end. Creepy and unsettling. But then there are also stories of equal generosity: the Marine who brought him a lamp when his last one was destroyed, etc.

2:51 PM  
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