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Shoot An Iraqi

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Flatfile Galleries in Chicago wouldn't let Wafaa Bilal call his exhibit "Shoot an Iraqi." Instead Bilal, who, this past summer, lived in an art installation that allowed strangers to shoot him with a Web-operated paintball gun, called his piece "Domestic Tension." He is an Iraqi who fled Saddam's regime in 1991. His father and younger brother were killed in the current Iraq war. Weekend America Host Bill Radke spoke with Bilal about what it's like to live under the gun.

Produced by Suzie Lechtenberg

Wafaa Bilal: The room is completely a mess. You can imagine, after over 50,000 shots at the room, it's completely destroyed, I have to put a board over the drywall because the paintball started going through the drywall all the way to the basement. There is a great deal of destruction to the physical destruction to the space.

Bill Radke: Our listeners might have just heard the gun go off, which is, of course, a common occurrence for you. How often do you get shot at?

It really varies. From one day, I got 20,000 shots. It's different from one time to another.

How do you interact with the gun? Do you watch it?

I watch it all the time and the ticking noise, that's what bother me the most now. There is a ticking noise. A mechanism, every time it moves it tick, tick, tick ... And I honestly, gonna have to say there are a few moments when I just say, I'm just going to go and destroy it.

Wafaa, do you ever feel concerned about permanent effects on you?

I honestly do, but I think that it's a small price compared to what the Iraqis and the American soldiers pain in Iraq.

When you lie down on-on your bed. You're safe on your bed, I understand, because it can't reach you there. How often do you get hit? How often can you not stay away from the gun?

I could stay away from the gun, but a few days ago, something very, very disturbing happened. Now I start having nightmares. So, although laying on the bed used to be safe the other day, I had a nightmare while I was sleeping and I got up when people were pointing the gun at me and I was shot twice. The paintball grazed my head. Now, what I have to do, every time I go to bed, I have to strap myself with a rope to the bed to prevent me from suddenly getting up after a nightmare.

It's so jarring to be talking to you and hear you getting shot at. What does it umma€¦well first of all, what does it feel like physically when you get hit?

Physically, it hurt a lot and it left a bruise. But now, I am thinking, not only on the physical level, but also now, it become mental level. Can I sustain this for the next days?

Why do you say that? What is it like for you mentally?

I mentally broke down two days ago. And completely lost sense of reality and I thought, "I am not going to finish this after 25 days of it." It's really hard mentally and physically to be in a space when people shoot at you 24 hours, 7 days a week.

I flinch when I hear this gun go off. Do you even flinch anymore?

Not at all. I'm scared of that because I'm scared of non-reaction, not a reaction.

What do you imagine that it feels like for the shooter?

I have so many people online who very much stated it's just a pure hatred. Some of them it's just a curiosity factor there. And there's another level of interaction, there are people taunting me online right now calling names from "terrorist" to "nigger" to "fag." Anything they could throw at me. So the game is no longer physical here. It is mental.

Wafaa, I wish you the best in your last few days.

It's my pleasure talking to you.

  • Music Bridge:
    A Muted Street Song
    Artist: The World On High Downs
    CD: Land Patterns (PLOP)


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  • By Sabah Jasim

    From Babil, WA, 12/12/2008

    That is a very alert attempt to eradicate the aggressive conduct embodied with so many imperialist order victims of hatred and wish for killing others. It is in the meanwhile a good gift for those ' willing for killing ' persons who have been under the influence of war against nations .
    Now Mr. Wafaa Bilal is helping as well to eradicate the concept of blood by substituting that yellow paint color as an on purpose hint to omit that redness denoting to blood. Thus the answer at the moment of shooting an innocent Iraqi would have an opposite impression on human behavior to concentrate more on those human factors rather than wickedness.
    A man inside America and assist the American - though they killed his brother and father - then what type of a hero we have here ?

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