Wafaa Bilal’s Response to President Jackson Regarding the Closure of his Exhibit:
I was delighted to be invited to RPI to interact with the art community, but I am very disturbed by the closure of my exhibit by President Jackson. The manner in which RPI has handled the closure and their reaction was based on fear and ignorance.
The RPI official press release claims to support freedom of speech and my perspective; yet RPI is still suspending the show. The so-called “suspension” is a delay tactic to close down potential dialogue, which constitutes censorship. I am requesting an official apology from President Jackson for shutting down the show.
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. 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.
In these difficult times, when we are at war with another nation, it is our duty as artists and citizens to improvise strategies of engagement for dialogue. This platform is a piece of fiction that uses the video game format to create alternative narratives and perspectives.
Because we inhabit a comfort zone far from the trauma of conflict zone, we Americans have become desensitized to the violence of war. We are disconnected, disengaged while many others do the suffering. The game holds up a mirror that reveals our own propensities for violence, racism and propaganda. We can close our eyes, our ears and deny that it exists, but the issue won’t go away.