Digital Arts and New Media: MFA: Collaboration, Innovation, Social Impact

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Mohamadreza Babaee: Global (re)Entry

Mohamadreza Babaee "Global (re)Entry"

Global (re)Entry is a new addition to my “Border Crossing” art series, a collection of performance and interactive projects about the complex connection between migration, surveillance, and identity. In this series, I ask: How do immigrants use art to establish their identities in the US? How are such identity construction efforts obstructed by state surveillance policies? How do immigrants creatively respond to xenophobic, colonial, racist, sexist, and queerphobic security practices? My art, scholarship, and pedagogy function in tandem to address such questions and intervene in oppressive systems of state surveillance. Driven by a fierce passion for social justice, I design art projects that go beyond issues of representation and, instead, make room for practical and utopian imagination of a better future, particularly for immigrants of color. 

Global (re)Entry is a critical and parodic take on the Global Entry program designed by the US Customs and Border Protection agency. Similar to other Trusted Traveler programs, Global Entry allows “low-risk” US citizens and permanent residents to use an automated machine to receive their clearance for crossing international borders. The conditions through which Global Entry considers a traveler as low risk are not disclosed publicly and are open to interpretation and bias. 

My project, designed as a 2D game, borrows textual and visual assets from the US Department of Homeland Security (and the associated agencies) website to simulate and repurpose the traveler screening program. In the game, players need to answer some questions to receive their travel clearance cards. However, their resistance to participating in state-sponsored security theatres can reward them in “cosmic” ways. While players can use the game to learn more about unfair border control strategies and oppressive state policies targeting immigrants, they can also fictionally redesign discriminatory US immigration forms and generate pro-immigrant, antiracist manifestos. 

This project aims to intervene in the failing current US immigration system. The game encourages a closer look at systems through which social, political, and civic ostracization of immigrants is perpetuated. Moreover, the project invites players to formulate an ideal vision of society based in equality, fairness, and inclusion. Global (re)Entry takes on a critical examination of state-wide surveillance and prejudice and asks players to reflect on how their personal choices can intentionally and inadvertently influence the border-crossing practices of immigrants locally and globally.