October 30, 2019

Call for Collaboration: Rebuilding the Library at the University of Baghdad

The Weisman Art Museum, the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change and the Minnesota Design Center are calling University of Minnesota faculty, staff and students to collaborate with artist Wafaa Bilal and reimagine the library of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad.


Project 168:01, Phase I

During the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 the College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad lost their entire library to looters who set fire to the collection. More than 70,000 books were destroyed. 

Thirteen years later, when Wafaa’s project 168:01 commenced, the students at the college had few remnants from which to continue academic study. In response, Wafaa created an austere white library, with blank books on white shelves serving a monument to the staggering cultural loss as well as a platform for its potential rebirth. Visitors to the exhibition were invited to donate book titles from the wishlist of the Art Department faculty in exchange for the blank tomes. At the end of the exhibition, all donated books were shipped to the College of Fine Arts, and here, the process of rebuilding has begun. Thus far, the project has collected and shipped over 5000 books, and supported building a reading room for students. 


Phase II: Collaboration with UMN

All along, Wafaa worked closely with the faculty, students and artists at the University of Baghdad, who expressed the need for a new library environment that fosters creativity and social exchange. Phase II of 168:01 will focus on designing such an environment.

During the next year (2020-21), WAM, ICGC and the Minnesota Design Center, College of Design, will host Wafaa as a fellow, aiming to initiate and facilitate the project in collaboration with the University of Minnesota. We are inviting UMN faculty, fellows, and students to contribute their knowledge and experience to the project. Potential disciplines of collaborators might include, but are not limited to: architecture, social sciences, art, civil and structural engineering, design, the humanities, environmental sciences, and so on. This project will provide a unique collaborative opportunity leading to a one-of-kind creative collaboration that transcends geographies and cultures.

Please send your expressions of interest to Boris Oicherman, the Cindy and Jay Ihlenfeld Curator for Creative Collaboration at boris@umn.edu.


Preliminary discussions

Wafaa will visit the University of Minnesota from January 22-24, 2020. During this time we will organize meetings, discussions, and brainstorming sessions with potential collaborators. If you would like to meet with Wafaa during his visit please reach out to Boris Oicherman, boris@umn.edu.


About Wafaa Bilal

Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal is known internationally for provoking dialogue about international politics and internal dynamics through high profile, technologically-driven projects that employ the use of robotics, the internet, and photographic mobile mapping. Bilal’s work explores tensions between the cultural spaces he occupies—his home in the “comfort zone” of the U.S. and his consciousness in the “conflict zone” of Iraq. Using his own body as a medium, Bilal continues to challenge our own comfort.  Bilal received his MFA in Art and Technology from SAIC and was recently conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Performance Art by DePauw University. He lives and works in New York City, where he is currently a professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Alya Ansari, Target Studio Assistant

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