168:01 present

The donated books will be shipped at the close of the exhibition to the University of Baghdad, the University of Mosul, the University of Babylon and the National Museum of Iraq to help with the process of rebuilding.

168:01 is showing for the first time in the Arab world, in the Emirate of Sharjah. As the legacy of the Sharjah World Book Capital 2019, the newly opened House of Wisdom aims to continue to ease access to knowledge for all. Hosting the 168:01 exhibition in the House of Wisdom not only honors the historical significance of Iraq, land of the original House of Wisdom, but also celebrates the potential of books to unite and empower people — a sentiment at the core of the new cultural hub.

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168:01 into House of Wisdom

present 168:01 the history

The College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad lost its entire library during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Due to looters who set fire to the collection, approximately 70,000 books were reduced to ashes. More than seventeen years later, few booksremain in the library for art students to read and study.

168:01 is a monument to this staggering cultural loss and a platform for the library’s potential rebirth. The work’s title references a thirteenth-century legend, in which an invading Mongol army set fire to the libraries of Baghdad, throwing the books of the Bait al-Hikma - the House of Wisdom - into the Tigris River, where their pages bled ink for seven days — or 168 hours. Bilal’s title, 168:01, refers to the first minute after such a loss, which is also, for him, the starting point for recovery.

With the goal of restocking the lost libraries of Iraqi universities and institutions, 168:01 invites visitors to fill these shelves with books requested by Iraqi students and take one of the blank white books on the shelf in exchange. As book donations accrue, these austere white bookshelves will become saturated with knowledge and colour.

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Wafaa Bilal

Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal, an Arts Professor at New York University's
Tisch School of the Arts, is known internationally for provoking dialogue about
international politics and internal dynamics through high profile,
technologically-driven projects that employ the use of robotics,
the internet, and photographic mobile mapping. Bilal’s work
explores tensions between the cultural spaces he occupies—his home in the
“comfort zone” of the U.S. and his consciousness in the “conflict zone” of Iraq.
Using his own body as a medium, Bilal continues to challenge
our comfort zone with projects like Domestic Tension,
3rd i, and Counting... Bilal received his MFA
in Art and Technology from SAIC and recently conferred the honorary
degree of Doctor of Performance Art by DePauw University.
He lives and works in New York City.

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