Target practice

David Gargill in Abu Dhabi’s The National:

Screenhunter_04_aug_12_1433Bilal is folded in an awkward crouch, ski goggles obscuring his face, from patchy moustache to widow’s peak, to protect his eyes from the yellow paintballs whizzing overhead. He can’t afford to focus on the camera – his ballistic antagonist has cornered the market of his attention. His locution is clipped, his lips pursed, barely elastic enough to emit words. “I’ll update you later on the slaughter,” he mutters, and the video cuts out. Now Bilal is standing beside the gun as its chrome proboscis wobbles like a caffeinated compass needle over his left shoulder, probing the room for quarry it can no longer see. “I’m filling the pod [with 200 rounds] every 10 minutes,” he says in disbelief. “May as well just stand here and keep filling.” Bilal’s desperation to keep the gun loaded is confounding, as though there’s some inexplicable symbiosis between tormentor and tormented.

“People online giving me so much hope,” he whispers tearfully. “Somebody said, ‘Imagine an entire nation living like this,’” and with that he breaks down, steely-eyed and shaky, his gaze fixed even as his sobs rock him in place. “My intent is to raise awareness of my family in Iraq,” he announces, his resolve replenished by memory, “and I’m going to continue doing it until next Monday.”

This powerful amalgam of hope and despair, spite and pathos, which Bilal initially called Shoot an Iraqi, unfolded last spring in Chicago’s FlatFile Gallery. (It was later renamed Domestic Tension to allay the concerns of Susan Aurinko, the gallery’s owner.) For 30 days, Bilal lived in a 4.6 by 9.8 metre performance space, while people around the world watched – and targeted him – through a webcam attached to a remote-controlled paintball gun, capable of firing over a shot per second at the Iraqi in question.

More here.  [Thanks to Asad Raza.]