It represents the loss of books after the 2003 Western invasion of Iraq when the University Baghdad’s College of Fine Arts was looted and set on fire.
The library lost some 70,000 books.
The display not only depicts that loss but is meant as a call to action.
Museum visitors and those who log on to the AGW’s web site can assist the artist in replenishing those books.
Every person who purchases a book, for example, through a linked Amazon wish list, will receive a blank white book signed by the artist.
So far $58,916 has been raised through a Kickstarter campaign – also used to purchase books - well more than the $9000 goal.
And “hundreds and hundreds” of books have been donated, Bilal, 49, an Iraqi-American artist, told the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) in a recent interview, which also references the Windsor gallery.
The exhibition has attracted attention from Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, as well as a British art magazine, a magazine in Brooklyn NY, and several Canadian media outlets such as the Winnipeg Free Press and National Post.
CNN did a piece on it and CBC has covered it extensively.
The name 168.01 represents another period in history where a vast library was ruined.
During the Islamic Golden Age in the 13th century an invading Mongol army set fire to all of Baghdad’s libraries including the House of Wisdom.
Legend is that the invaders threw the books into the Tigris River building a bridge the army could cross.
The number of hours in a week are 168 - those books bled into the river for seven days.
The additional second “refers to the first moment when grief is transformed into a call to action,” says the AGW.
The bookcase installation, which takes up an entire room, is accompanied by giant pictures showing scenes of Baghdad destruction, known as The Ashes Series.
Photo by Wafaa Bilal
How did the Art Gallery of Windsor connect to an Iraqi-American artist whose current exhibit at the AGW is garnering international attention? The museum’s curator of contemporary art, Srimoyee Mitra, had met Wafaa Bilal several years ago at the Images media and art festival in Toronto and kept up a correspondence. When she took the curator position at the AGW in 2011 the idea of an exhibit here made perfect sense. “Just learning a little about the context in Windsor and recognizing the vast Middle Eastern community that we have here and also across the river, I felt that it would be really relevant to plan a project with him.” Meanwhile, while the centrepiece of the exhibit 168:01 (see story this page), the stark white bookcase, is transformed with colourful donated art books, there are special events showing this transition. The next one takes place March 5 between 1.30 and 3.30 pm. – 24/2/16
- Photo: Wafaa Bilal