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Joseph DeLappe, Artist, Reno, Nevada

You’ll Never Walk Alone: Protest, Memory, and Reenactment

February 9, 2009; 64 Minutes; Video

In 2001 media artist Joseph DeLappe began a series of protests, interventions, and reenactments⎯hacktivist performances within computer games and online communities. Included in these is the controversial project “dead-in-iraq,” which he created to intervene in the highly popular, taxpayer-funded first-person shooter game produced by the Defense Department as a recruiting and marketing tool. DeLappe enters the America’s Army game with the moniker “dead-in-iraq,” drops his weapon, and in the ensuing virtual mayhem, is killed; hovering over his dead avatar, he proceeds to type the name, age, service branch, and date of death of each American military casualty from the war in Iraq. In this ongoing act of “memorial and protest” he has, to date, input more than 4,000 names of the 4,221 reported killed. The project has garnered both intense support and criticism from dedicated gamers, veterans, soldiers’ relatives, and others, while also receiving a level of media scrutiny that has propelled the ideas behind the project into the popular imagination.

Does this type of artistic intervention affect change? How does one creatively navigate the inherent conflicts between art and activism? How do creative individuals who seek to dissent, demonstrate, or otherwise participate in oppositional actions choose to function in our present media-saturated environment? DeLappe presents his ideas regarding art and activism in a discussion of “dead-in-iraq” and other recent works that creatively engage our contemporary geopolitical and technological context through interventionist strategies.