Virtual Jihadi (video game)

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Artist: Wafaa Bilal

Year: 2008

Date of Action: March 2008

Region: North America

Location: Albany, New York

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion, Violence

Medium: Electronic Media

Confronting Bodies: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Description of Artwork: "The origin of his work is a video game called "Quest for Saddam." The game, where players target the ex-Iraqi leader, prompted what RPI's Web site describes as an al-Qaida spin-off called "The Night of Bush Capturing."

Bilal hacked into that game and created a work that puts "his own more nuanced spin on this epic conflict," according to the arts department. In Bilal's version ... the Iraqi-born artist casts himself as a suicide bomber who gets sent on a mission to assassinate President Bush." [1]

A Screenshot of the Game

The Incident: Not long after unveiling the game at an exhibition at RPI, the college staff closed down the exhibit. The decision came after the College Republicans called the Rensselaer Arts Department "a safe haven for terrorists" (the statement has since been redacted) and rumors circulated that the FBI was paying special attention to Bilal.

Results of Incident: In a public statement, Vice President for Strategic Communications and External Relations William N. Walker cited two reasons for the school's decision to keep the exhibition closed: "First, that the video game in the exhibit is derived from the product of a terrorist organization; and second, that the video game is targeted to and suggests the killing of the President of the United States." Further on in the statement, Walker asserts that Rensselaer fully supports academic and artistic freedom. We respect the rights of all members of the Rensselaer community and their guests to express their opinions and viewpoints. However, as stewards of a private university, we have the right and, indeed, the responsibility to ensure that university resources are used in ways that are in the overall best interests of the institution." [2]

Source: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1983226/posts


See http://wafaabilal.com/virtual-jihadi/ for the artist's description of the artwork.