cover image Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun

Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun

Wafaa Bilal, Kari Lydersen, with Kari Lydersen. . City Lights, $18.95 (177pp) ISBN 978-0-87286-491-7

Weaving together accounts of Iraq and America, art and violence, performance and reality, past and present, this gripping account all but shakes the reader by the lapels. Iraqi-born artist Bilal records the month he spent confined in his 2007 interactive performance piece entitled Domestic Tension , living under constant fire from a chat room–controlled paintball gun 24 hours a day, his every move dogged and determined by the hostility—or benevolence—of his thousands of online viewers. The nerve-rattling conditions were intended to reflect both decades of suffering endured by millions of Iraqis and Bilal's own life and the costs of surviving Saddam's regime, Gulf War bombardment, Sunni-Shia violence, a brutal Saudi refugee camp and, finally, the difficulties and joys of the American immigrant experience. The author emerges as an Iraqi everyman, and his provocative book brilliantly juxtaposes images and time frames to convey the toll of war on Americans and Iraqis: “We may think we are surviving,” Bilal writes, “but as I... twist and turn through sleepless nights, flailing between worlds of comfort and conflict, hope and despair, I wonder.” (Dec.)