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Old 05-26-2007, 08:16 AM   #1
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Domestic Tension

"until June 4, Bilal is living his entire life inside one room at Chicago’s Flatfile Gallery, which anyone with a Web connection can log on to watch. Oh, and to shoot him. With “Domestic Tension" Bilal has turned his makeshift living quarters into a 24-hour-a-day war zone. Viewers can peep in on him anonymously at any time, and even chat with him online. On the installation’s Web site, his audience can fight for control of the camera and pan it around the room. Since the camera is affixed to a rifle-sized paintball gun—and the Web site has a button that allows viewers to fire the gun—they also have the opportunity to shoot at him, or anything else in his room. Which they have done an astonishing 40,000 times in the project’s first two and a half weeks.

“Domestic Tension” is a breathtaking work of political art, forcing even casual surfers to ask themselves: Would they shoot a man if all it took was one noiseless click of the mouse? Are there any physical repercussions to what you do online? "

He tells the story in this YouTube entry of the Marine who brought him the lamp


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Old 05-26-2007, 11:14 PM   #2
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Well, it's a hell of an intense art project.

The setup vaguely reminds me of the famous Milgram experiments conducted at Yale in the early 60s--though totally different in that blind obedience, perceived possibility of serious injury, and, perhaps somewhat more arguably, conformity aren't central to the "interaction" here. It would be interesting to know how large the number of people choosing to shoot directly at him actually is--the article mentions that one person accounted for half of the total 40,000 shots fired thus far.

It sounds like his main interest is in exploring how the detachment of perpetrating "violence" via monitors and electronic displays might affect the level of inhibition against causing harm. Now granted, it's an art installation, not a psychology experiment, but still I wonder how useful the "findings" really are when the shooters' motive(s) are that unclear. Are these aggressive people looking for a consequence-free outlet for their emotions? Bored and fundamentally indifferent spectators who simply find it casually entertaining? Impatient people with a sadistic streak, annoyed by what they see as his pretentiousness and thinking "OK sucker, you want it, you got it"? Simply curious to see what his reaction will be? Or who knows what else. And then the qualifier that shooting a willing (though less than happy) volunteer with a paintball gun presumably reads very differently psychologically to people than shooting combatants with real bullets. Are there any involuntarily vulnerable "civilians" in his scenario?

I'd have no interest in shooting at him myself, nor in watching any of it for that matter, but I'd be reluctant to draw too many conclusions as to what his "results" really show. In some ways it might be more interesting if he'd chosen to divide the project into two weeks of the webcam scenario and two weeks of the same basic setup, only in a public space in Chicago with only "real" passers-by eligible to "participate".

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Old 05-26-2007, 11:19 PM   #3
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Very interesting...
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