Links & Information About the Wafaa Bilal Controversy

  • March 5th: Iraqi-born artist, Wafaa Bilal presents his work, Virtual Jihadi, at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy NY despite complaints from Campus Republicans
  • March 6th: RPI indefinitely suspends Mr. Bilal’s show, and subsequently closes it down.
  • March 7th: The Sanctuary for Independent Media invites Wafaa to reinstall his exhibition and to host a re-opening event.
  • March 8th: Bob Mirch calls for a protest against the Sanctuary on the day of the opening. He ‘appears’ on the radio for 3 hours (on city time?) calling for protest. Troy Record runs a headline about Mirch’s protest.
  • March 10th (AM): Code enforcement and fire department officials make a visit to the Sanctuary to assure that they are in compliance.
    • After this visit – on the day of Wafaa Bilal’s controversial exhibition, the Sanctuary did NOT receiveany calls from the City. Everything seemed to be in order.
  • March 10th (PM): Mirch’s protesters arrive and picket the Sanctuary. Sanctuary supporters respond with a straightforward message: This Art is Not Terrorism.  The opening of the art show and talk go very well, despite the protest organized by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Works (the department that oversees code enforcement!)
  • March 11th: The Sanctuary received a phone message from Code enforcement citing trumped-up code violations and saying there could be no assembly at The Sanctuary for Independent Media, effectively closing the building and Wafaa Bilal’s art show with it.
  • March 18th: the regional arts community responds by forming an ad hoc working group, the Capital Region Committee for Free Expression, and organizing a protest in front of City Hall. Christ Church, in downtown Troy, becomes the first of several Sanctuaries-in-Exile to provide emergency venues, hosting the The Yes Men (the second installment of the “Art, Freedom, Democracy” series of which Wafaa Bilal’s show was a part). 
  • March 25th: Filmmaker Pam Yates presents her documentary “State of Fear” about government repression in the guise of counter-terrorism (the third installment of the “Art, Freedom, Democracy” series) at Christ Church, the Sanctuary-in-Exile. 
  • April 4th: Critical Art Ensemble member Steve Kurtz, falsely-accused of bio-terrorism, attends the screening of “Strange Culture,” a new film about his case (the final installment of the “Art, Freedom, Democracy” series), at Christ Church, the Sanctuary-in-Exile. 
  • April 5th: Indonesian filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich presents a workshop for aspiring documentarians and screens “Promised Paradise: How Can One Believe That Terrorism Leads To Heaven?” at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, the Sanctuary-in-Exile. 
  • April 8, 9, 11, 15, 16th: The African Film Festival, with four features, four shorts and a musical performance by kora master Mamadou Diabate’s ensemble, takes place at 5th Avenue AME Zion Church, the Sanctuary-in-Exile. 
  • April 24th: After nearly two months of volunteer work on the building, the City of Troy Bureau of Code Enforcement re-inspects the Sanctuary.

  • April 26th: The Sanctuary for Independent Media re-opens at 3361 6th Avenue with a gallery show, “An Atlas of Radical Cartography,” and the Capital Region premiere of the Fay Victor Ensemble.

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