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Art Action: Wafaa Bilal's Artwork under attack at RPI

Forwarding along from our good friends at in Chicago.

Many of you may already be aware of the situation but for those who do not please read, pass and forward.


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 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 evenafter 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:

Wafaa Bilal's "Virtual Jihadi" exhibit at RPI -- freeculture wiki

Coverage from Regine DeBatty of We Make Money Not Art

Coverage and discussion on Inside Higher Ed and

Opinion from Art Fag City

Call for letter-writing support by Ryan Griffis on Rhizome