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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 6, 2009 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT

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education for peace and iraq center. ..
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consider the landscape that he comes from. born in 1966, the rise of saddam hussein, the ba'ath party seizing power in 1968, saddam hussein seizing power later ron the war that began in 1980 with iran, eight years of one of the most devastating wars in the region. the world war i of the middle east, trench warfare. hundreds of thousands, in excess of over 1 million dalia on both sides. you can imagine living under the tyranny, living under the constant threat of war and then later on is the gulf war, the uprising, popular uprising that swept across iraq and was brutally crushed by the regime and less from the landscape that produced great mind, great artist's mind. it's a testament i think to the human spirit that someone like
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wafaa with his vision comes from that kind of landscape and it's not unusual, i know so many iraqi is who have been incredibly resilient and courageous are doing amazing things through art and literature, through humanitarian relief and civil society initiatives. that i think is an iraq that more and more americans need to be introduced to. wafaa uses interactive technology to connect the fewer with the art piece. he does performance art in a fundamental way that i think is true about the best far to. the kind of art that challenges us, the challenges our comfort zone and breaks down barriers that is unsettling and provocative that begins to force us to consider different
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perspectives and if there is anything needed i think at this time, the time we live today i think it's having more americans to be challenged in that fundamental way but i think he also speaks to something else. that we live in a world of conflict, we live in a world of crisis now with a growing economic crisis we can consider what's happening in the region, the continuing suffering in iraq, the conflict is not over. mass displacement, millions have been forced from their homes and the ongoing challenges just as in his inaugural speech now president barack obama spoke to, he challenged us that we have to start considering national service. surface to model the ourselves but also to the world that we have to start to think about things that are greater than ourselves and the find meaning in things greater than ourselves, so i think it's
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wonderful and very fitting shortly after such a stirring inaugural speech we have an artist like wafaa bilal who challenges us to step up to the plate and great things and i think we can all do that together and with folks around the world and it's exciting about the growing partnerships we are seeing among americans, among iraqi use, this part of the world, that part of the world, so with no further ado i introduced wafaa bilal. [applause] [inaudible conversations] erik, i want to thank you for a great introduction and also
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thank you tonight for the great work that you and your organization have done on behalf of the iraqis from very early on against the sanction and now with this war. thank you so much for being a great example of american citizen and on behalf of iraq i wanted to deeply thank you for your effort and thank everybody for being here tonight and bossuet's and poets bringing us together the project i did in 2007 was born out of desperation trying to make sense of senseless war and to connect into zones that are physically divided and the physical that created this engagement as an artist, who opposed the war
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longtime and opposed saddam regime i was thinking how can i bridge these zones without being didactic, trying to establish physical platform and virtual platform and they are both corrected and trying to open the narrative when it is not finished by me but it's finished by the participant. this way i am not in force in my own ideas on for a few words but in fact have them engage in a dialogue and what i wanted i got and what i did is i moved to a gallery space, which was about 15 feet by 30 and i build a robot and the robot controlled a paint ball gun and the paint ball gone and robot both are controlled by the viewers online. i was very naive when i took
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books with me trying to kill time and i think also i was naive when i took only two boxes of paint balls, which is about 1,000 around. we ran out of that within a matter of hours. on the and the project i was shocked at 65,000 times from 168 countries and 80 million hits on the side. and also, one of the most remarkable things is the 3,000 pages of chat room i collected from iraq with each other. the book was born after the project. i end up with so many wonderful stories and also so much material and i wanted the
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project to live in other people's mind. i don't just want it to be varied right away after it is dawn. so, i -- we started writing, and the right to the joint me on the book and we face a challenge how to eliminate this, we had so much material, how to eliminate and luckily within a short amount of time we were able to finish the book but what came out of the book or what happened at the end of the process of writing i wasn't expecting at all because i wanted the book to be focused on the project but might collaborate and publisher said there was another story that needs to be told. what brought a person or inspired a person to put himself in front of a gone for 30 days now leaving the space at all and being shot and abused by other
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people and so we end up with a parallel structure between my story born in iraq and come in to the united states and what happened and the paint ball and again i read a few sections tonight and i will be very happy to take questions. >> my heart pounds as i ran through the twisted street in the ancient alleys but harbert dissident in the dark corner and in the basement. the golden afternoon dresses the crumbling building with its warm fingers but i don't have time to appreciate it. it is gaining on me. our footstep echoes on fell cobblestone street like gunshots as i turn a corner running hard
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i looked quickly over my shoulder. i saw the brutality in his cold play is, the sweat running into his famous mustache and the image of the face in the mural that i suddenly find myself smack up against with no route to escapes saddam hussein. just as the great dictator closes in on me, i'd drift out of the dream and i try to sit up, but the belt fastened tight around my body holds me down in filthy sheets. i am in a disheveled bed in a makeshift bedroom and a gallery in chicago and instead of the gentle golden light of ancient
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brick i am surrounded by the walls, 1,000 first paint balls. the bang, bang, bang in my dream continues. it is the sound of the people gone. it is fortunate i had the foresight to restrain myself with a belt for the few hours i screamed. i have been getting each night. if i had bolted upright in bed a paint ball could have hit me squarely in their head at close range to block the out or even kill me. i took a deep breath, the smell of the fish oil paint in my nostrils making my lungs ache. even 15 years after leaving iraq, even after saddam
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hussein's he is still haunting my dreams. the man all he represents, repression, manipulation, torture, but he is dead. he is not the reason i am here and self-imposed imprisonment living in what has come to resemble a weakening nightmare. i am here to shed light on the destruction and violence of which i hope people who have never experienced conflict can understand to create dialogue and build him a man being too human being and unbeknownst to myself at first i am also here to exercise my own demons. the loss and tragedy visited on my family, my self and my people
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by the brutal regime and the three oil fuel whirs and everyday family and human tragedies that befalls all. bang, bang, bang, i stare at the ceiling and mobilized as if in a straitjacket by the paint balls above me i close my eyes. i know sleep won't come again more what i want on leslie in the face-to-face with saddam disjointed through my brain like experimental movie, the penetrating eyes of my passionate and cruel father, the war of of my grandmother's edna grayson, the solo, the stench of the trophied to desert, the
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adobe between my fingers in a refugee camp in saudi arabia, the bustle of the jfk airport as i first set foot in the united states. a lovely melancholy of mexico's onset. a taste of steaming maxwell street polish sausage loaded with on the ends on a snowy chicago sunday, the train ride to my brother's house in detroit after i learned of our brothers def and the rate of a moment that brought me here to this one-room helm. i grew up in a city of the shiite muslim in iraq
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10 kilometers from of chief we played with ancient civilization steadied by the lights of the historic mosque from the summer heat to the shrine to power its behind it. said the pilgrim from across the middle east were for every day child who had trials and chileans of my siblings and me. my family was characterized by a passionate for both politics and religion. my mother was a muslim and my father was a communist and you can imagine the conflict as a kid brought up by these two polarizing believes. foreigners may not know that iraq used to have a strong
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communist party. it was highly educated country and whenever you have education you use what you have been even though communist ideology was in many ways similar to the path party ideology it represents a threat to saddam hussein power. so he crashed for communists like my father the choice was to flee the country, joined the ba'ath party or to be killed. so my father forfeited his politics and his intellect and the social identity and challenging his impotence and anchor and the disenchantment smoldered for his whole life and flared into flame under the pressure of the familiar obligations.
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our family was the place where he would vent his frustration at being this time to and everything he must have dreamed of doing in his life. my father, the self identified and electable didn't want to marry my mother, a devoted muslim with little education. their parents arranged the wedding and he never forgave my mother for her suppose it role in that. shortly after the wedding, my dad disappeared with my mother where he went but most likely he sold the glittering stone to buy the power and euphoria of a week and as a high roller. when my father came back my mother accepted him with quiet
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resigned devotion. they start producing children, the glue that seemed to hold them together through tumultuous epic relationship. first comes my sister, then my brother, then me, then my other brother. later after my parents divorced, my brothers were born. my father initially wanted a more names to rhyme, and mine was a girl's name. so i had no end of treason. perhaps that helped make me strong for the battles that lead ahead of me. my mother and father divorced and remarried three times and i
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teased them very often and said you get divorced them go and shop around and nobody takes you so you get back together. [laughter] my father would hit my mother for the smallest reason or no reason at all and she would submit and still cook dinner for him. i thought that is what a family was like at this time. i didn't know it wasn't normal to have a home filled with intense violence and anchor. we live in a two-room brick house in a rough neighborhood full of crime and prostitution. my dad lived in one room and the rest of us up to eight people as the family grew. my father insisted on having the
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tv in our room and we had to stay up until he was done watching all the programs, gymnastic competitions for one of his favorite. sometimes he would watch late into the light even though he had to get up, we had to get up to school. everything revolved around him and his convenience. since he was a teacher, my father made a good salary and the government elude him a piece of land and funds to build a house in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods. he spent several years building a beautiful house for us to live in, designed it himself and hiring a gardener to create the landscape and when it was early
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and complete we had the technique on the ground to celebrate the structure anticipating our move. but the fire was still burning inside my father, anger, resentment and restlessness that would flare up violently and viciously at this light provocation or insult. it kept us constantly on the edge. when i was about 7-years-old shortly after the house was completed, he possibly sold it before we moved in and fly with all of his money to baghdad where he again threw himself and all his money into gambling and women. he sold the house to the gardener who had done the
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landscape and who lives there to this day when my brother returned to iraq in 2003 he tried to buy the house back but the owner refused. >> it was a busy week, late spring, 2004 when i got a call from an iraqi friend now settled in chicago suburb who had lived through a long stint in a refugee camp with me. he wanted to come now for a visit. i was in the final weeks of teaching my glasses at the chicago school of the art institute and with several projects in the works i wasn't much in the mood for socializing, but he sounded consistent so i invited him to
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come by the next evening. my friend brought along his young son and another friend and we sat down to discuss politics especially recent news from iraq. i could tell the small talk was preludin he had something important to tell me after an uncomfortable pause, he said there is something i need to tell you. i froze and his son covered his years, your brother was killed. the first question i asked is who killed him, muqtada or the americans. he said it was the americans. my brother was 28-years-old and he had gotten married just a
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year before. he had his entire future in front of him. he was supporting our family with a thriving business he had started with the cause and selling gravel and sand from the family land in the dry sea of rajiv. he was tough, feisty, brave young man. it seems impossible anyone could tell him. at first they had no emotional reaction at all. it didn't register. but i was aware of overwhelming feeling that all of a sudden nothing but a matter. all the plans they had for a project and exhibitions and my life in general had become totally irrelevant. i would sleep in blank silence.
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after the guests left i told my roommate. still feeling as if i were talking about somebody else's brother. then i packed up, i picked up the phone and called my brother in detroit who already knew but had been too afraid to tell me himself. i said when did you hear about him and he broke down crying game. i started crying with him and then i calmed him down and said you have to control your demotion. i lost one brother. i don't want to lose too. that is actually a saying in our culture where tragedy is so common. i packed a suitcase in preparation to head to his house
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in the morning and then went to bed. strangely, i fell into deep dream less sleep. my fault characterized only by the deep silence that had suddenly enveloped my whole world. i welcome the morning refreshed, the silence even more profound and went down to catch the train to teach right -- detroit. the landscape and the whispering grew by the cracked windows like a strange dream. the few days i spent with allah and his wife and children are a blur but i know that i told him clearly not to hide anything
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from me ever again. i need to trust you if something happens i don't want to hear it from other people. i didn't call my family in iraq until i got back home, and then i did not show any emotion. i knew that what they were going through and crawling on the phone, crying with them would only contribute more grief. i had to pretend to be the strong one even though it hurt me. i reminded my mother of her religious faith even though it was a faith i didn't share that helped soothe her. i tried to presume my life, my normal life in chicago but
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everything and everyone seems different, more irritating, more trivial, more pointless. the artistic career i had been built in 13 years and the united states was focused largely on iraq. how had gained critical notice from provocative projects and various other rumination of war and u.s. intervention but i saw this work as a matter of fighting for human rights for my country as a whole, commentary and activism on collective level with his death and the war and the political torture in iraq had become intensely personal. now every report of h. atrocities from displacement and casualty's of civilians killed by americans my purse or a
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family blown up by and prisoners called away hit me like a kick in the stomach. my family despair and pain were ever present in my mind and with every news stories of death and disaster in iraq i could viscerally imagine the pain and loss of countless other families the ringing of my phone was perpetual torment each time entering i would become terrified at the fault of what news might be coming to me. the death toll in iraq was rapidly rising and i was in constant fear of losing another family member.

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