Since 2016, I’ve been working on the "168:01" project- an endeavor supported by the global community to help the College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad restock the books that were destroyed in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. With the generous donations we received from our initial Kickstarter campaign, we have collected over 1600 books that are currently in the final process of being shipped to Baghdad.
The students are thrilled to get these treasured books in their hands. However, the university is not equipped to receive the large amount of books, nor is there a suitable space where the students can read and study.
We are reaching out for your support to help renovate the College of Fine Arts' library. Our volunteer architect Wei Cai has developed a practical yet affordable design from locally accessible building materials that will both house the books and provide a communal reading space for the students.
WHAT YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS WILL SUPPORT
In “168:01”, visitors encounter an austere library containing empty white books. The project positions viewers as potential participants whose contributions fund educational texts from a wish list compiled by students and faculty. As the installation accrues donations, volunteers replace the blank books with new texts during weekly performances, and the library’s shelves become saturated with knowledge and vibrancy. At the end of the exhibition, all donated texts are shipped to Baghdad.
In 2016, we ran the first Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the first wave of art books and related shipping expenses. The books collected were initially used as part of the "168:01" museum installations at the Art Gallery of Windsor & The Esker Foundation, and are now scheduled to be shipped to the University of Baghdad.
“168:01” has the potential to replace all of the 70,000 books lost. After two exhibitions in Canada in 2016, world-wide press coverage, and the participation of hundreds of donors and volunteers, “168:01” is already making an impact on the students and faculty at the University of Baghdad by making a connection between Baghdad and the rest of the art world while putting a spotlight on Iraq’s artistic production.
"168:01" will continue in its efforts to replenish the library in the coming years. Beginning with an exhibition that opened at the Dunlop Art Gallery on May 5th, 2017, the project is now on a four-venue tour in the US and Canada through 2018. A unique version of the installation will also be on view as part of "The New Observatory" at FACT, Liverpool from June 22nd - October 1st, 2017.
Iraq has a long history of cultural loss. Participating in this campaign, and in the "168:01" project in general, is just a small way to help transform destruction into a fresh start for Iraq's next generation of artists.
During the Islamic Golden Age in the 13th century, an invading Mongol army set fire to all the libraries of Baghdad, including the famed House of Wisdom, or Bayt al-Hikma. Legend describes the invaders throwing the Bayt al-Hikma’s entire library into the Tigris River to create a bridge of books for their army to cross. The pages bled ink into the river for seven days, at the end of which the books were drained of knowledge.
“168:01” refers to the first moment when grief is transformed into a call to action, signaling the beginning of a struggle to move forward from the ashes of ruin.
Wafaa Bilal is renowned for provoking dialogue about international politics and internal dynamics through high profile, technologically-driven art projects that employ the use of robotics, the Internet, and photographic mobile mapping. His work is informed by the experience of fleeing his homeland of Iraq and existing simultaneously in two worlds—his home in the “comfort zone” of the United States and his consciousness of the “conflict zone” in Iraq.
Bilal’s work is represented in major public collections, including Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Milwaukee Art Museum; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California. He has exhibited extensively in galleries and institutions throughout the world, including the US, Thailand, Iraq, the UK, Dubai, Lebanon, France, and Germany, and he has served on the panels of over twenty major global universities and institutions, including the Tate Modern, UK; Harvard University; Stanford University; Museum of Art and Design; the Global Art Forum, Qatar; and the Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts, Turkey. His work has been reviewed in major publications, including ARTnews, Art in America, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek, and he is the co-author of the critically-acclaimed 2008 publication "Shoot an Iraqi: Arts, Life and Resistance Under the Gun".
Risks and challenges
The original Kickstarter campaign for "168:01" was truly an amazing experience. We were over 650% funded and the outpour of support we received was incredible. That having been said, we could have been better prepared to deal with all of the responsibilities that come along with running a popular campaign and mounting such a large-scale project. The "168:01" team was small in the beginning, so we have added a few new volunteer team members to ensure we are not stretching ourselves thin with the tasks we need to accomplish. It has been an excellent learning experience, and we are taking what we have learned to make adjustments to the way we will be running this new campaign:
1. Updates - Our new volunteer Outreach Coordinator, Christine Donley, will ensure the campaign page is updated more regularly with developments on the campaign, more detailed reports of what we have already accomplished between the beginning of "168:01" and now, and future developments with the project on whole.
2. Rewards - Based on experience and backer feedback received during our last campaign, we have developed a new system that will guarantee a timelier delivery of all rewards.
3. Challenges - In general, the implementation of "168:01"'s original goal went very well. We created the installation, successfully created our system of exchange with viewers, and collected over 1600 books to date for the College of Fine Arts.
The main challenge we face is with getting the books delivered to the school and finding a place in the library to house them. Shipping to Iraq is not as simple as shipping to other countries and we will be working on the remodel remotely. We may face some delays, but we are fully confident that the books will be delivered and the library will be updated.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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