Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal’s  exhibition,  168:01, opens Jan. 30.

The exhibition is of “book-like objects” which will be exchanged for actual books through online crowdfunding, and then sent to restock the University of Baghdad’s College of Fine Arts library, which was set on fire by looters following the 2003 invasion.

Wafaa Bilal: 168:01 will feature a 12-metre-long shelf of Bilal’s meticulously designed empty books — about 1,000 altogether. During the 10-week exhibition, these will gradually be replaced with art textbooks purchased with funds raised in a Kickstarter campaign. The new books will subsequently be shipped to the University of Baghdad’s College of Fine Arts…

The show’s title refers to a legendary event during the Mongol siege of Baghdad in 1258 when books from a celebrated library, the House of Wisdom, were dumped into a river, their ink bleeding out over the course of a week — 168 hours — to leave the pages white.


The exhibition runs until April 10, and includes another project, The Ashes Series.


Bilal has previously explored the destruction of Iraq through his photography series Ashes, for which he built miniature reconstructions of scenes depicted in the press. For his latest work he said wanted to create “a participatory project that had tangible results for both donor and receiver”.

Wafaa Bilal | The Ashes Series from Ian Alden Russell on Vimeo.


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