Digital Media Concepts/Wafaa Bilal 2

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The Great Wall of China from watchtower

Wafaa Bilal[edit | edit source]

Iraqi-American artist Wafaa Bilal (born June 10, 1966 in Najaf, Iraq) is internationally renowned for dialogue provoking political artwork. Bilal integrates themes of international politics and internal dynamics into high profile, technologically-driven performances that employ the use of robotics, the internet, and photographic mobile mapping. He is best known for his performance entitled “Domestic Tension”, (2007), in which Bilal spent a month in a Chicago gallery with a paintball gun pointed at him. The paintball gun could be operated remotely by anyone from over the internet.

Education[edit | edit source]

Bilal's family is from Najaf, Iraq. Originally studying geography at the university in Iraq, Bilal received his BFA in 1999 from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He earned an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2003, and became an adjunct assistant professor the following year[1]. Bilal is currently an Associate Arts Professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Notable work[edit | edit source]

Domestic Tension, 2007

For his 2007 installation, Domestic Tension[2], Bilal spent a month in a Chicago gallery with a paintball gun that people could remotely operate and shoot at him 24/7 over the Internet. The inspiration for Domestic Tension stemmed from Bilal's experiences in refugee camps during the rule of Saddam Hussein. While confined to the gallery space for a month, Bilal had no way to escape the constant threat and noise of the paintball gun or the feedback he received from viewers watching his every move online. Overall, a total of 60,000 shots were fired over the course of 30 days by "shooters" from 128 different countries.

Virtual Jihadi, 2008

The Night of Bush Capturing: A Virtual Jihadi[3] is a computer game artwork created by Wafaa Bilal. A Virtual Jihadi is a modified version of the game Quest for Bush, itself a "hacked" version of the popular commercial video game Quest for Saddam. While in the real game players target the ex-Iraqi leader, in Wafaa's modified version the artist casts himself as a suicide bomber who gets sent on a mission to assassinate President George W. Bush.

Jihadi is meant to bring attention to the vulnerability of Iraqi civilians to the travesties of the recent war, as well as their vulnerability to recruitment by violent groups such as Al Qaeda. 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.

Other work[edit | edit source]

Bilal’s work is constantly informed by the experience of fleeing his homeland and existing simultaneously in two worlds – his home in the “comfort zone” of the U.S. and his consciousness of the “conflict zone” in Iraq. Using his own body as a medium, Bilal continued to challenge our comfort zone with projects like 3rdi and Counting. Bilal’s most recent body of work, Canto III, premiered in a solo booth at the New York Armory Show in 2015 and went on to be shown in the 2015 Venice Biennale.

Awards[edit | edit source]

2014 Art Matters Grant, New York, NY, USA 2014 Humanities Initiatives Faculty Research Fellowship, New York University, New York, NY, USA 2014 Dean’s Technology Grant, New York University, New York, NY, USA 2013 Sony Electronic Faculty Award, New York, NY, USA 2013 The Dean’s Discretionary Fund, New York University, 2013, New York, NY, USA 2012 New York Foundation of the Arts (NYFA), New York, NY, USA 2011 Freedom to Create Commended Artist Award, South Africa 2010 The Kindal Achievement Award

References[edit | edit source]

  1. critic, Alan G. Artner, Tribune art. "WAFAA BILAL". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  2. "NET ART ANTHOLOGY: Domestic Tension". NET ART ANTHOLOGY: Domestic Tension. 2016-10-27. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  3. "Wafaa Bilal's "Virtual Jihadi" - The Sanctuary for Independent Media". The Sanctuary for Independent Media. Retrieved 2018-09-18.

External Links[edit | edit source]

http://www.wafaabilal.com/