Life In The Conflict Zone, Art In The Comfort Zone

Opening Image

New Media artist Wafaa Bilal critiques the divide between public and political life

The United States has cultivated a casual indifference to how often we make war. Marita Sturken observes that “the way a nation remembers a war is directly related to the way that nation further propagates war.” Since the Persian Gulf War what Jean Baudrillard called “the First Postmodern War” Americans remember war as a video game. Consequently, we as a nation show little reluctance to unleash our military might. Iraqi new media artist Wafaa Bilal is one of those millions of people for whom America’s unfettered war-making has had tragic consequences. Bilal recognizes that the suffering unleashed by war is sanitized through the antiseptic, video game images that simulate war for Americans. Living between two worlds“ one of comfort versus one of conflict” Bilal’s new-media interventions and performance art installations try to pierce this simulation, to make the nature of warfare visible to a viewer. In his artistic practice, Bilal has been shot at 60,000 times with a paintball gun, received 25,000 tattoos, and been waterboarded. For his latest project, “The Third I,” he has become a cyborg. Bilal’s goals are ambitious: trying to remediate America’s understanding of our relationship to the world. In trying to achieve this goal, Bilal has placed himself at the forefront of both articulating what a new-media artist can be and at the extreme end of the spectrum of what a performance artist will do in his practice. Continue reading