Shoot an Iraqi

by Wafaa Bilal

Iraqi artist Bilal immigrated to the U.S. after Desert Storm, and channeled his haunting experiences into his performance pieces, culminating in Domestic Tension. For 31 days and nights, Bilal was the target of a paintball gun controlled by online participants who were invited to “shoot an Iraqi.” Video cameras recorded Bilal’s struggle to retain his composure if not his sanity as he interacted with shooters and viewers via a chat room and YouTube. Now he writes about his art and his life in Iraq, revealing overlooked daily struggles of existence under a dictator, in war, and during a long-term occupation. Ultimately the death of his brother back home via an unmanned American drone compelled Bilal to make his greatest artistic statement yet against all that makes the war in Iraq unreal to most outsiders. Recounting his own traumatic journey and the long-ranging effects of his bold installation makes for a powerful and demanding read that is, frankly, a literary punch to the gut. Bilal discloses all the risks he has taken with his art and asks why Americans are not willing to take their own chances and uncover the dirty truths about the Iraq War.