Skip to main content

Wafaa Bilal: 168:01

Curated by Srimoyee Mitra


Exhibit runs from May 5 to June 25, 2017 at Central Gallery

Additional Information

Organized and circulated by the Art Gallery of Windsor
Reception: Friday, May 5, 7:00 pm

In 168:01, Bilal takes the Bayt al-Hikma, or House of Wisdom, as a starting point for a sculptural installation of a library, filled with empty white books. The Bayt al-Hikma was a major academic center during the Islamic Golden Age, and housed the largest library in the world, until it was destroyed in a Mongol siege. According to some accounts, the library was thrown into the Tigris River to create a bridge of books for the Mongol army to cross. The pages bled ink into the river for seven days – or 168 hours, after which the books were drained of knowledge. Today, the Bayt al-Hikma represents one of the most well-known examples of historic cultural loss as a casualty of wartime.

Throughout the duration of Bilal’s exhibition, the white books will slowly be replaced with visitor donations from a wishlist compiled by The College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad, whose library was looted and destroyed in 2003.. At the end of the exhibition, all the donated books will be sent to the University of Baghdad to help rebuild their library. This exchange symbolizes the power of individuals to rectify violence inflicted on cultural spaces that are meant to preserve and store knowledge for future generations.

Wafaa Bilal is an Iraqi-born, New York-based artist renowned for his online performances and technologically driven encounters that speak to the impact of international politics on individual lives.

Wafaa Bilal, 168:01, 2016, installation (detail). Image by Frank Piccolo


May 5, 12:00am


Dunlop Central Gallery