Censorship in the USA of Iraqi born artist

This video from the USA is called Wafaa Bilal interviewed on the RPI censorship.

By Clare Hurley:

Censorship in Troy, New York: an interview with Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal

21 April 2008

An exhibition of Iraqi-born performance artist Wafaa Bilal’s most recent art piece, “Virtual Jihadi,” was censored last month when Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, “suspended” it. The suspension came in response to protests mounted by the College Republican club and spearheaded by a local politician, Troy Public Works Commissioner Robert Mirch.

Protesters, many of whom admitted they had not actually seen “Virtual Jihadi,” claimed the video piece was an incitement to terrorism. Officials at RPI, a private research institute dedicated to developing technology, made no effort to defend Bilal, an artist-in-residence at the Institute.

The Arts Department suggested that the FBI had contacted the school administration, whereas in fact the FBI said that Bilal was not a “person of interest.” When the show was moved off-campus to the Sanctuary for Independent Media, Mirch had the show permanently closed based on “code violations.”

The intention of the video piece is to show the effects of the US occupation on ordinary Iraqis. Hacking the code of a real video game, Bilal creates a fictional version in which he inserts himself as a suicide bomber on a quest to assassinate US president George W. Bush after his brother is killed by US occupation forces.

“This artwork is meant to bring attention to the vulnerability of Iraqi civilians, to the travesties of the current war, and to expose racist generalizations and profiling,” Bilal explains on his website. “Similar games such as ‘Quest for Saddam’ or ‘America’s Army’ promote stereotypical, singular perspectives. My artwork inverts these assumptions, and ultimately demonstrates the vulnerability to recruitment by violent groups like Al Qaeda because of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.”

That this connection should be raised, even in an art piece, is too potentially subversive under conditions where two-thirds of the American people want a withdrawal of troops.

Born in Najaf in 1966, Bilal was arrested for creating art critical of Saddam Hussein. He refused to serve in the Iraqi Army in the invasion of Kuwait, and was held in a prison camp in Saudi Arabia for two years. He came to the United States in 1992, where he studied art at the University of New Mexico and then received an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999.

Stephen Kurtz Case Finally Dismissed: here.

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