Artist paints 100,000 names in 10 days

Rosa Johnson, Managing Editor

A performance artist painted the names of 100,000 Iraqis who have died in the war efforts on the walls of the Linfield Gallery.

As an Associate Arts Professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Wafaa Bilal incorporated his political based work as part of this year’s PLACE theme, “Legacies of War.”

Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Culture Brian Winkenweder         introduced Bilal at his artist talk. The two met while attending the University of New Mexico.

Bilal lived on campus while hand painting the names in Arabic.

Students watched as Bilal painted the exhibit with a shiny white paint on top of the already white walls so that the names were only visible when reflecting sunlight.

“Sometimes art galleries aren’t about hanging a nice picture on the wall,” Director and Curator of the Linfield Gallery Criss Moss said.

“I Don’t Know Their Names” is Bilal’s latest project to promote Iraqi awareness. His goal is to “acknowledge the invisible.”

“It is a silent observation of the people we have lost,“ Bilal said. “A lot of emotions come to mind with every name, I think of their loss.”

Though Bilal’s exhibit is only temporary and will be painted over, he has a much more permanent piece tattooed on him.

In another one of Bilal’s projects called “…And Counting” he had a map of Iraq tattooed onto his back. To continue his theme of invisibility, the American casualties are tattooed in black ink while the Iraqis’ can only be seen under a black light.

Bilal has done other performance-based art in the past.

In 2007, Bilal did one of his more interactive pieces called  “Domestic Tension.”

For the exhibit, Bilal lived in a Chicago art gallery for 31 days.

During that time, people had online access to a paintball gun that was controlled by the computer and could shoot Bilal at any time of the day or night.

He was shot a total of 75,000 times.

Bilal wrote a book based off of his artistic experiments with Iraqi racism in 2008 called, “Shoot an Iraqi Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun.”

Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. at the James Miller Fine Arts Center “I Don’t Know Their Names” will be shown until May 10.