Event: Wafaa Bilal “Agent Intellect” (Jan 21 - April 5, 2010, The Helen Day Art Center, Stowe, Vermont).
"Wafaa Bilal: Agent Intellect" is the title of a new exhibition organized by The Helen Day Art Center located in Stowe, Vermont. The event focuses on Iraqi-American artist Wafaa Bilal ouevre. Among the artworks on display are “Domestic Tension” and “Virtual Jihad”, the most explicitly game-based pieces. For “Domestic Tension” Bilal locked himself up at FlatFile Gallery in Chicago and acted as a human target in a bizarre paintball game. Visitors on Bilal's homepage used a webcam mounted on a paintballand shot him for days. This performance was meant to draw attention to the ongoing troubles in Iraq, a country shattered by mass killings, terrorist attacks, snipers, and suicide bombers.
The installation also raises questions about the blurring between virtual and real violence. How far would users go on the internet? If they had stood face to face with Bilal in the gallery, would have they behaved in the same way? Domestic Tension was described by the author as a peculiar First-Person Shooter where virtual actions have real life consequences. The performance centered on suffering not through the display of emotions, but engaged people via a playful interactive video game.
The other piece in the “Agent Intellect” exhibition is “The Night of Bush Capturing: A Virtual Jihadi” (2008), based on the videogame “Quest for Saddam” (2004), which first was hacked by Al Qaeda supporters. Here, Saddam Hussein's virtual face was replaced President George W. Bush, but in Bilal’s third modification the artist himself played the role of a suicide bomber in the game.
His goal was to address 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.” (Wafaa Bilal).