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By Rhizome

Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal's latest installation, 'Domestic Tension,' has been catching the attention of Internet users. During May, Bilal is living in Chicago's Flat File Galleries, where a 24-hour web-cam is allowing visitors to his Website to scrutinize his daily routine, chat with him, or even to remotely shoot him with a robotic paintball gun. Bilal's uncanny perfomance is documented by a video-diary posted at YouTube, as well as a slide show--hosted by a local newspaper, the Chicago Tribune--in which a series of images illustrate the project while a voice-over (by the artist himself) explains its origins, intentions, and results. 'Domestic Tension' is rooted in the artist's interest in audience engagement via interaction and the combination of real and virtual experiences. However, the work supersedes the discussion of this critical issue in new media art, becoming a powerful allegorical examination of US politics in relation to Iraq. On the one hand, he created a surveillance system that evokes the military apparatus; on the other, his confinement alludes to the current symbolic captivity of the Iraqi population. This topic is further explored by the use of a technological device that brings to mind the playful video games found in so many Western homes that simulate the violence that characterizes the Iraqi region during the current war. If the name of the piece articulates the anti-Bush protests that recently stormed the US, nevertheless the title that Bilal initially envisaged better express the meaning of the work: 'Shoot an Iraqi.' This, in fact, is what has been taking place at Flat File Galleries considering that, as reported in the May 10 issue of the Chicago Tribune, 'As of lunchtime Wednesday [...] about 1,850 rounds have been fired in the room...' - Miguel Amado

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