Project “Domestic Tension”

Project “Domestic Tension”, ( ), Wafaa Bilal

“Domestic Tension” is a project by Wafaa Bilal presently taking place at FlatFile Gallery of Chicago. Along with Dan Miller and Ben Chang, two artists/professors from the Art and Technology department of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I contributed to the design and construction of the “Domestic Tension” project. Each of us had to set up the correspondent part of his section where Wafaa is going to live inside the gallery for 28 days. For this reason he has transformed the room of the gallery to his own sole personal room. However there is a vital difference in this room from an ordinary personal space. In this room, a paintball gun is installed and aimed toward Wafaa’s room. The paintball gun is manipulated and controlled robotically and linked to the internet by which anyone with internet access can log on and shoot Wafaa, or his surroundings, with paintballs propelled with violent force. This robotic device is equipped with a camera that observes the room 24-hours per day, in a Big Brother-sense. Wherever the internet user points the camera, he or she is also pointing the gun in that direction. The spectator is free to shoot wherever he or she wants, even towards the artist. The bullets are filled with yellow paint (the choice of color is not accidental — it transgressively signifies the Support the Troops yellow ribbons) and leave their mark. I feel that, in general, the color yellow also has to do with the negative characteristics of anger, conflict, warning, bellicosity, and dogmatism. This project has a clear political message, because Wafaa is an Iraqi artist. He appeals the disquietude and chaos, displacement, incessant violence, and the digital or virtual nature of the war, which his compatriots and the whole world has to face, every day. A world in which the citizens are deluged with all these pictures and information from the television, the newspapers and the internet. At the end they are unable to protect their personalities, and they are forced to familiarize themselves in this new reality. All of us can see the negative consequences in our everyday life.
A characteristic recent example of this situation is the sad incident in the University of Virginia (Virginia Tech). This brutal attack left behind 33 dead students. The academic community of USA still hasn’t healed its wounds or cured the pain of this slaughter.
The question here is how much have we all been influenced and affected by violent culture, detachment and perhaps apathy. With this project and the safety of the anonymity that the internet offers us we can test ourselves. After all, the procedure is already known and familiar!!!
At the end, we can question ourselves if the artistic reality is just an alibi, or if this is something which will make us see the naked truth we are living in our everyday life.
Is the artist a victim, or is he someone who is trying to remind us, that we are the victims of a manipulated situation.

Dimitris Michalaros


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