Naeem Mohaiemen on Sun, 16 Mar 2008 18:48:04 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Wafaa Bilal's artwork under attack at RPI

Freedom of artist expression is being compromised at Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute 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

What you can do:

1. write emails to President Jackson 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",0,3216094,print.story

>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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