Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal has been behind some of the most amazing critical artistic practice addressing the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. When his brother was killed at a U.S. checkpoint in 2005, he responded with "Domestic Tension," an unsettling interactive performance piece: for one month, Bilal lived alone in a prison cell-sized room in the line of fire of a remote-controlled paintball gun and a camera that connected him to internet viewers around the world. Visitors to the gallery and a virtual audience that grew by the thousands could shoot at him 24 hours a day. Bilal's experiences with this exhibit and the theory behind it are chronicled in his new book on City Lights, Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun.
Two interesting tidbits. First, on day-10 the paintball gun stopped; popularity of the website had crashed the webpage server. Wafaa, who for ten days had been completely preoccupied with staying out of the line of fire, was finally able to let down his guard. When he did, the grief of loosing his father and brother to Bush's Iraq war washed over him and his suppressed emotions were released.
Second, after Wafaa had been assaulted non-stop one day, because his site was #1 on Digg.com, a group of 39 people organized to take turns clicking on their key board to make the gun aim to the left. This gave Wafaa some relief and generated interesting dialoge via the chat feature of this performance art piece with those who wanted to shoot him.
Cross-posted at GDAEman Blog