Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun [NOOK Book]

Overview


Wafaa Bilal’s childhood in Iraq was defined by the horrific rule of Saddam Hussein, two wars, a bloody uprising, and time spent interned in chaotic refugee camps in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Bilal eventually made it to the United States to become a professor and a successful artist, but when his brother was killed at a checkpoint in Iraq in 2005, he decided to use his art to confront those in the comfort zone with the realities of life in a conflict zone.

Thus the creation and ...

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Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun

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Overview


Wafaa Bilal’s childhood in Iraq was defined by the horrific rule of Saddam Hussein, two wars, a bloody uprising, and time spent interned in chaotic refugee camps in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Bilal eventually made it to the United States to become a professor and a successful artist, but when his brother was killed at a checkpoint in Iraq in 2005, he decided to use his art to confront those in the comfort zone with the realities of life in a conflict zone.

Thus the creation and staging of “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 twenty-four hours a day. The project received overwhelming worldwide attention, garnering the praise of the Chicago Tribune, which called it “one of the sharpest works of political art to be seen in a long time,” and Newsweek’s assessment “breath taking.” It spawned provocative online debates, and ultimately, Bilal was awarded the Chicago Tribune’s Artist of the Year Award.

Structured in two parallel narratives, the story of Bilal’s life journey and his “Domestic Tension” experience, this first-person account is supplemented with comments on the history and current political situation in Iraq and the context of “Domestic Tension” within the art world, including interviews with art scholars such as Dean of the School of Art at Columbia University, Carol Becker, who also contributes the introduction. Shoot an Iraqi is equally pertinent reading for those who seek insight into the current conflict in Iraq and for those fascinated by interactive art technologies and the ever-expanding world of online gaming.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Weaving together accounts of Iraq and America, art and violence, performance and reality, past and present, this gripping account all but shakes the reader by the lapels. Iraqi-born artist Bilal records the month he spent confined in his 2007 interactive performance piece entitled Domestic Tension, living under constant fire from a chat room-controlled paintball gun 24 hours a day, his every move dogged and determined by the hostility-or benevolence-of his thousands of online viewers. The nerve-rattling conditions were intended to reflect both decades of suffering endured by millions of Iraqis and Bilal's own life and the costs of surviving Saddam's regime, Gulf War bombardment, Sunni-Shia violence, a brutal Saudi refugee camp and, finally, the difficulties and joys of the American immigrant experience. The author emerges as an Iraqi everyman, and his provocative book brilliantly juxtaposes images and time frames to convey the toll of war on Americans and Iraqis: "We may think we are surviving," Bilal writes, "but as I... twist and turn through sleepless nights, flailing between worlds of comfort and conflict, hope and despair, I wonder." (Dec.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Brooklyn Rail
What is most remarkable about Shoot an Iraqi isn't, however, the chronicle of the project that brought him worldwide attention, but the back story. Weaved amid a narrative of the 31-day experiment is a memoir of his life in Iraq and eventual flight to Kuwait and then Saudi Arabia, followed by his attempt to make a new life in the United States."
Booklist
Voted one of the Top 10 Arts Books of the Year 2009: "A staggering memoir by immigrant Iraqi artist Bilal, who staged a performance piece, during which online participants used a computer-controlled paintball gun to 'shoot an Iraqi."
Shelf Awareness
Shoot an Iraqi' is an invaluable work of political art and a clear-eyed view of the profoundly disturbing fate of present-day Iraq.
Newark Star Ledger
Shoot an Iraqi' tells of Iraq's dissolution from a beacon of education in the Middle East to a locust-eaten state, mugged by a dictator and then punished from abroad for his offenses. Neither Bilal's exhibit nor this absorbing book about it can expiate Iraq's condition. Rather, they brilliantly demonstrate the lengths to which one man went to live history, and the disturbing-and occasionally hopeful-things he learned when he invited the entire world to do it with him.
—John Freeman
The Socialist Review
[A] highly readable, moving book.
—Bea Leal
Art Asia Pacific
Most remarkable about this book is the thoroughly candid, unsentimental and non-martyr-making way that Bilal and Lydersen describe his life in the Middle East and the dramatic month in Chicago when he relived through art his own and his two nations' traumas. Lowering his defenses, Bilal offered himself up as the quintessential enemy, and then shared his catharsis with his friends and foes everywhere. That the art of war can cause so much suffering explains why there are so few recruits.
Art Threat
"Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun . . . illustrates inspiring possibilities for contemporary art to address key issues facing the world today, a call to action for the art world." (Stefan Christoff)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780872866157
  • Publisher: City Lights Books
  • Publication date: 8/6/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 858,973
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author


Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal, a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago, has exhibited his art world wide, and lectured extensively to inform audiences of the situation of the Iraqi people. Bilal's latest interactive installation "Domestic Tension" garnered praise in national and international press, including Newsweek and a Chicago Tribune "Artist of the Year" award. Kari Lydersen is a staff writer at The Washington Post Midwest bureau and author of "Out of the Sea and Into the Fire: Latin American-US Immigration in the Global Age."

Wafaa Bilal is causing a stir in in the art world again, with his latest project "The 3rd I," which includes Bilal surgically implanting a camera in the back his head. Bilal describes this project as "a comment on the inaccessibility of time, and the inability to capture memory and experience." Mr. Bilal's work will be among one of the inaugural exhibits of Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art in New York City scheduled to open December 2010.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2009

    An insightful read.

    Probably one of the most educational books about Iraq and the regime of Saddam Hussein, as well as the involvement of the United States. Wafaa Bilal switches between his tumultuous past in Iraq and his prolonged exposure to paintball gunfire in an experiment/artistic innovation in a museum. It is difficult not to sympathize with him and his past, especially for those who consider themselves artists. I learned more truth about Iraq and the people there from this book than I have in my whole life.

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