Wafaa Bilal, video artist

Wafaa Bilal, video artist

The Department of the Arts / iEAR Presents! at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will feature the work of Iraqi-born video artist Wafaa Bilal.  The opening of "Virtual Jihadi" and Bilal's lecture will be March 5, 2008 in the West Hall Auditorium of the RPI Campus in Troy, NY. The exhibit opens at 7:00 p.m., and the lecture is at 7:30 p.m.  A reception with the artist will follow.  Refreshments will be served. The event is free and open to the public.  For directions or more information, please visit www.arts.rpi.edu or call (518) 276-4829. Unable to make the event? 

Video of the event is now available online, Wafaa Bilal Video.

In the widely marketed video game "Quest for Saddam," players fight stereotypical Iraqi foes and try to kill Saddam.  Al Qaeda did its own take, creating an online video game using the structure of Quest for Saddam but adding a new "skin" to turn the game into a hunt for Bush: "The Night of Bush Capturing."  Now Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal has hacked the Al Qaeda version of the game to put his own more nuanced spin on this epic conflict.

In "The Night of Bush Capturing: A Virtual Jihadi," to be unveiled at RPI on March 5, Bilal casts himself as a suicide-bomber in the game. After learning of the real-life death of his brother in the war, he is recruited by Al Qaeda to join the hunt for Bush.  This work is meant to bring attention to the vulnerability of Iraqi civilians to the travesties of the current war and racist generalizations and stereotypes as exhibited in games such as Quest for Saddam; along with vulnerability to recruitment by violent groups like Al Qaeda because of the U.S.'s failed strategy in securing Iraq.  The work also aims to shed light on groups that traffic in crass and hateful stereotypes of Arab culture with games like Quest for Saddam and other media.

Along with the opening of "Night of Bush Capturing: Virtual Jihadi," Bilal will also present a lecture on his internationally-acclaimed 2007 project "Domestic Tension: Shoot an Iraqi."  Domestic Tension² placed him on the receiving end of a paintball gun that was accessible online to a worldwide audience, 24 hours a day. Bilal's month-long piece spurred online debates and intense conversations, earning him the Artist of the Year award from The Chicago Tribune.  

As an artist who feels he does not have the privilege to create work that is not political, Bilal uses platforms such as these to create dialogue around war. In the face of a war that stretches on, the 2005 deaths of his brother and father and the violence his own history, Bilal seeks to imbue his audiences with a sense of empowerment that comes from hope in the enduring potential of humanity.  Bilal accepts this responsibility and nurtures it, as he states, "It is through my art that I work to create awareness among those that would not normally be aware, to give voices to the voiceless, and to bring them peace."  Bilal earned his M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2003 where he is now a faculty member.


Spring 08 iEAR Visiting Artists Residencies

Residencies will consist of a collaborative production with interdisciplinary electronic artists, faculty and students at the iEAR Studios. Special attention will be given to networking international artists with the local, and considering connections between local communities of Troy, NY and the local communities of the visiting artists from Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia, and England.  This series is supported in part by the New York State Council on the Arts

Future events in the series:

April 2 - Leonard Retel Helmrich

April 23 - Hasnul Saidon

iEAR Presents! is a series of public performances, exhibitions, screenings and lectures.  Curated by artist faculty, iEAR Presents! seeks to bring artists into a creative dialogue regarding integrated electronic arts practice and theory with a participatory community of faculty and students from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and members of the general public.

Visit www.arts.rpi.edu for more information or call (518) 276-4829. 

For disability services for West Hall events, including wheelchair access, please call (518) 276-2746.