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.