April 3 – 12, 2009

22nd Images Festival

The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art and the 22nd Images Festival are pleased to present the exhibition Welcome to the Terrordome, featuring video-based, multi-media installations by Wafaa Bilal, Jubal Brown and Mark Essen.

As the momentum of the Iraq War in the US began to blur the lines of entertainment, marketing and propaganda, a US game designer published Quest for Saddam, a first-person shooter-style game that puts the player on the hunt for Saddam Hussein. This game was quickly appropriated by Al Qaeda as The Night of Bush Capturing to reverse the roles of the hunter and the hunted. In Virtual Jihadi, Wafaa Bilal reworks the narrative yet again, casting himself as a suicide bomber, recently recruited by Al Qaeda to join the hunt. This fully playable hacked version of the game further breaks down the use of stereotypes and propaganda on both sides of the war on terror.

Jubal Brown consistently challenges boundaries of watch-ability, pushing the limits of spectatorship, manifesting an amoral barrage of mindless directionless energy, often a tragic and beautiful collision of despair and longing. Premiering three new installations, Brown promises there will be blood, fire, and his signature rapid fire machine-gun flicker editing thrill-ride. Also featured is a video and sculptural installation in collaboration with Josh Avery.

Using a more indirect engagement with the culture of terror and war, the games of Mark Essen break open the conventional mechanics and aesthetics of gaming. Distilled to their most basic elements and set amidst flat, low-resolution colour forms, Essen’s games recall the formalist and structural sentiments of avant-garde cinema. The Thrill of Combat presents a challenge with stripped down militaristic missions aboard a helicopter, vertically and horizontally scrolling through a maze of two-dimensional obstacles and mechanized foe. In Scrap Collector the mission is to “collect scrap, build planes, shoot planes.” Or as Essen describes it in another statement about the game, “Scrap Collector is about making money.” The combative goals become expanded in a surrealist adventure within the military industrial complex.

About the artists

Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal has exhibited worldwide including in Baghdad, the Netherlands, Thailand and Croatia. He has travelled and lectured extensively to inform audiences of the situation of the Iraqi people, and the importance of peaceful conflict resolution.

Jubal Brown is a video maker, multi-media artist, organizer and  writer based in Toronto. He has shown extensively in Europe and North America. Past projects include The Cult of PO-PO, Toronto’s legendary WASTELAND event series, ART SYSTEM Cultural centre, FAMEFAME, FAMEFAME’s VIDEODROME series, UNKNOWN UNKNOWN and THE LAND OF THE LOST.

Mark Essen is a game artist living in Los Angeles and he recently received his B.A. from Bard College. His games have been shown at music venues and arts festivals around the world. His games are known for their odd control schemes, masochistic difficulty and nonsensical humour.

Installation Shots

Opening Reception

Friday April 3, 7 – 10 pm