Artist and alum Wafaa Bilal (MFA 2003) was named one of Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2016. Recognized for using art to be a political advocate, Foreign Policy highlighted a piece that debuted in January, which was inspired by an event in his homeland of Iraq.
Following the invasion by American troops, looters set 70,000 books on fire at a college library in Baghdad. Bilal saw this as part of a “cyclical history of violence against cultural institutions...during times of war and conflict.” For his piece, he stocked a 72-foot bookshelf with blank books. Then he raised money through Kickstarter to gradually replace the books with real books. When it was complete, he shipped it to Baghdad as a ready-made library.
Much of Bilal’s work highlights the political struggles of Iraq while exploring the United States’ role in it. Bilal is currently an Associate Professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.