Wafaa Bilal

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

constantly 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. Aware of the disconnect that

occurs when we inhabit a comfort zone far from the trauma of a conflict zone, Bilal

forces his audiences to become active participants in his reality based on these first-

hand experiences. In this way, Bilal’s work is more of a lens than a confrontation, as

the artist presents us with his story so that it may be retold, discussed, distributed, and

brought into the awareness of a culture that has become disengaged with, and de-

sensitized to, the violence and reality of war.

Bilal’s projects have served to create interactive platforms that critique both formal

and informal spaces, ranging from the gallery setting, to his own body, to the internet

chat room. His critically-acclaimed projects include: the 3 RD I (2010-11), when Bilal had

a camera surgically implanted on the back of his head to spontaneously transmit

images to the web 24 hours a day; …AND COUNTING (2010), when Bilal’s back was

tattooed with a map of Iraq and over 100,000 dots for every Iraqi and US casualty of

war; and DOMESTIC TENSION (2007), when Bilal spent a month in a Chicago gallery

with a paintball gun that people could shoot at him remotely from over the internet.

DOMESTIC TENSION was called “one of the sharpest works of political art to be seen

in a long time” by  The Chicago Tribune , which also named him 2008 Artist of the Year.

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 author of the

critically-acclaimed 2008 publication Shoot an Iraqi: Arts, Life and Resistance Under

the Gun.

Bilal graduated from the University of New Mexico and then obtained an MFA at the

School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He currently lives and works in New York as an

Associate Arts Professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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