[NetBehaviour] Iraqi-born "Virtual Jihadi" Artist's Show Shut Down in Troy, NY

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Thu Mar 27 00:28:27 CET 2008

Iraqi-born "Virtual Jihadi" Artist's Show Shut Down in Troy, NY

An Iraqi born artist, now US citizen, Wafaa Bilal's work was shut down 
at the West Hall Art Department Gallery and will now be reopened 
tomorrow (March 11), but conservative public pressure threatens to close 
it once again.

Wafaa escaped from Iraq in the early 1990's risking his life by crossing 
the Iraq/Kuwait border and is now a professor at the School of Art 
Institute of Chicago. He was invited to RPI as part of the art 
department artist residency program and is exhibiting a work entitled 
"Virtual Jihadi" that consists of a "hacked" version of another 
commercial video game called "Quest for Saddam." 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 Bush Jr.

"It feels like a military camp, not an educational institution," Bilal, 
41, said Thursday night.

The piece is an anti-war allegory, but the public has been misled by a 
Times-Union article reprinting accusations by RPI Campus Republicans 
that the school's arts department is harboring "terrorists." Bilal 
himself is a US citizen and a noted pacifist whose work of the last 
several years has been dedicated almost exclusively to ending violence.

What you can do:

1. write emails to President Jackson president at rpi.edu supporting the 
decisions and good judgement of the art department to spark dialogue 
about important issues and not necessarily have to agree with the 
opinions of all presenters; also to express surprise/concern that even 
after the Feds told her this was "not a person of interest" she still 
bowed to pressure of the college republicans and republican alumni

2. come to the Sanctuary for Independent Media at 5 pm tomorrow as the 
demonstration against the show gathers 


Associated Press Story
"Suspension of artist's terror-themed work prompts uproar at RPI"

 From Washington Post
"Terror-Themed Game Suspended Iraqi-Born Artist Asserts Censorship After 
Exhibit Is Shut Down"

Article from the Times Union, Albany, NY "RPI suspends 'Virtual Jihadi'"

Wafaa interview:

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