Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wafaa Bilal's "Virtual Jihadi"/We Tolerate Video Games Only If They Murder Others

Wafaa Bilal's "Virtual Jihadi" was recently shut down at Rennselaer Polytechnical Institute because of its controversial gaming scenario--you are a suicide bomber whose mission is to kill President Bush.

The article explains:
The origin of his work is a video game called "Quest for Saddam." The game, where players target the ex-Iraqi leader, prompted what RPI's Web site describes as an al-Qaida spin-off called "The Night of Bush Capturing."

Bilal hacked into that game and created a work that puts "his own more nuanced spin on this epic conflict," according to the arts department. In Bilal's version, unveiled at RPI Wednesday, the Iraqi-born artist casts himself as a suicide bomber who gets sent on a mission to assassinate President Bush.

You can kill the President in his game, Bilal said.

Bilal said his brother was killed in the conflict. His exhibit's stated intention is to highlight vulnerability to recruitment by groups like al-Qaida "because of the U.S.'s failed strategy in securing Iraq." It also criticizes "racist generalizations and stereotypes as exhibited in games such as 'Quest for Saddam."'

Bilal's overall work is actually quite remarkable, and deserves further consideration. Check out "Domestic Tension," which was not shut down, which invited participants to shoot (paintballs) at Bilal in a closed room, while being videotaped.

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