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.