During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad lost their entire library from looters who set fire to the collection. Over 70,000 books were reduced to ashes. To this day, students still have few books from which to study.
168:01 is an installation at the Art Gallery of Windsor featuring a library of blank white books. The white library stands as an austere monument of loss that simultaneously activates a potential for rebirth. Each book in the white library is embedded with the possibility of rebuilding anew from the ashes of cultural decimation.
This is where you come in – 168:01 is a system of exchange, connecting viewers like yourselves directly with the College of Fine Arts to generate a transnational grassroots effort. Your participation in this Kickstarter will fund educational texts from a wish list compiled by faculty at the College of Fine Arts. Each new text will replace a blank white book from the exhibition.
Our goal is to replace all 1,000 blank books in the exhibition with educational texts. At the end of the exhibition, all of the texts will be shipped to the College of Fine Arts in Baghdad, beginning the process of rebuilding their library.
During the Islamic Golden Age, Baghdad was home to the largest library in the world—the Bayt al-Hikma, or House of Wisdom. A Mongol siege in the 13th century laid waste to all the libraries of Baghdad, along with the House of Wisdom. According to legend, the library was thrown into the Tigris River to create a bridge of books for the Mongolian army to cross. The pages bled ink into the river for seven days, after which the books were drained of knowledge.
168:01 takes its title from this story of loss, representing the first second after 168 hours (or seven days), which signals the beginning of rebirth and process of moving forward to rebuild.
About the Artist
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"
About the Art Gallery of Windsor
The Art Gallery of Windsor collects, conserves, interprets and presents Canadian art. It is a place to view significant works of art by local, regional, national and international artists; a place to see what Canadians have been making and thinking about for longer than Canada has been a country. The AGW is a valuable cultural resource for the Windsor area, providing the special service of showcasing Canadian art in a city that has one of the busiest border crossings between Canada and the United States.
Located in the southern tip of Canada and across the river from Detroit, is an important site for the arrival and departure for Indigenous, settler and migrant communities. In recent years many Middle Eastern families fled their countries in search of safety in the US and Canada. Both Windsor and Detroit are home to burgeoning Middle Eastern communities that now form an essential part of their cultural fabric. Wafaa Bilal’s installation 168.01 will resonate deeply with the Gallery’s audiences and open up important conversations on freedom, security and cultural heritage that are at once deeply interwoven and splintered along colonial, racial and economic lines. This project is commissioned by the Art Gallery of Windsor and curated by Srimoyee Mitra, Curator of Contemporary Art.
The Art Gallery of Windsor is a chartered, non-profit, educational organization operating for the benefit of the public. It is supported by its members, donors and sponsors, the City of Windsor, The Canada Council for the Arts, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.
For more information on the exhibition visit: 168:01
In exchange, you can select the following as rewards for your participation:
$5 or more
Pledge $5 or more and I will post a special "thank you" message on my personal Facebook page in your honor.
$10 or more
Pledge $10 or more and I will mail you a handwritten "thank you" postcard, featuring a photograph from my acclaimed photography series The Ashes Series, Al-Mutanabbi Street.
$15 or more
Pledge $15 or more and your name will be listed on a wall next to the installation of 168:01 at the Art Gallery of Windsor!
$25 or more
Pledge $25 or more and you will receive one limited edition artist book from the installation of 168:01. Each hardcover book is signed personally by me and numbered with its edition. They measure approximately 8.5 x 1.25 x 6.25 inches and contain 400 blank pages, along with one page of text describing the project.
$30 or more
I'll send you one limited edition artist book, and throw in a bonus bookmark: one postcard of The Ashes Series: Al-Mutanabbi Street.
$50 or more
Pledge $50 or more and your name will be inscribed on the bookplate for one educational text donated to the College of Fine Arts.
$100 or more
Pledge $100 or more and your name will be inscribed on the bookplate for five educational texts donated to the College of Fine Arts.
$1,000 or more
Pledge $1000 or more and you will receive an exclusive limited edition artist work—a handcrafted miniature replica of the 168:01 installation. Edition of 3.
$5,000 or more
Pledge $5000 or more and you will receive a limited edition artist work along with a certificate of authenticity—a photograph from the acclaimed photography series The Ashes Series, Al-Mutanabbi Street. Photograph measures 24 x 30 inches and will be shipped unframed. It is from an edition of 5 & 2 APs. Only 1 available as a reward.
$10,000 or more
Pledge $10,000 or more and you will receive a limited edition artist work along with a certificate of authenticity—a photograph from the acclaimed photography series The Ashes Series, Al-Mutanabbi Street. Photograph measures 40 x 50 inches and will be shipped unframed. It is from an edition of 5 & 2 APs. Only 1 available as a reward.
Risks and challenges
The success of 168:01 relies heavily on community support, so the biggest obstacle to full realization of this project would be underfunding. To replace every white book on the shelf with a book from The University of Baghdad’s wish list, I will need to raise over $20,000. Ideally, I will raise more than the goal.
By keeping the funding goal modest on Kickstarter, I am giving myself 1) a good jumping off point to start purchasing the books for the exhibition and 2) time to secure the rest of books as direct donations. I am hoping to build off the momentum of a successful campaign, grab the attention of the right people and continue circulating the registry of books to individuals and organizations throughout the exhibition period.
The shipping of the white book rewards from 168:01 may be delayed, as the exhibition will travel to at least one other venue after the Art Gallery of Windsor. I will make sure to keep donors in the loop on any developments.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)