Milestone Wendy Michener Lecture will feature participatory artist Wafaa Bilal

Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal will present the 34th annual Wendy Michener Lecture at York University. The free lecture, hosted by York's School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD), will take place at 12 p.m. on March 5 in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Accolade East Building at the Keele Campus. All members of the community are invited to attend the annual lecture, which commemorates a milestone year as 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Wendy Michener’s death.

Wafaa Bilal is known internationally for his online performative and interactive works provoking dialogue about international and interpersonal politics. Bilal’s work explores tensions between the cultural spaces he occupies —his home in the comfort zone of the U.S. and his consciousness in the conflict zone in Iraq.

Wafaa Bilal Domestic Tension, 2007, courtesy of the artist, photograph by John Dean.

Wafaa Bilal Domestic Tension, 2007, courtesy of the artist, photograph by John Dean

For his 2007 installation, Domestic Tension, Bilal spent a month confined in a small room where people could shoot him via a remote-access paintball gun and watch via an internet camera. Bilal's book about the installation, Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun, was published the same year.

Wafaa Bilal

Wafaa Bilal

In this lecture, Bilal will discuss his body of work, elaborating on its evolution and reflecting on his personal experiences. Bilal’s work explores both the trauma of conflicts and post-conflict relationships through social engagement. His dynamic, participatory art blends technology and performance to engage viewers in dialogue and places him in the role of the artist as platform initiator, helping to shift and change the distribution channels in the media. The controversial aspects of his work spark deeper conversation and provoke passive viewers to take an active stance with regard to social justice and their own personal and political realities.

Bilal, who is currently a professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, continues to use his own body as a medium to challenge the public’s comfort zone with projects like 3rdi and and Counting…. Bilal’s current work 168:01 brings awareness to cultural destruction and promotes the collective healing process through education and audience participation.

“We are excited to welcome Wafaa Bilal to deliver the 2020 Wendy Michener Lecture in AMPD," said Sarah Bay-Cheng, Dean of AMPD. "As an artist who engages technology and performance, Bilal has emerged as one of the most important voices in contemporary arts of the 21st century. Working across cultural contexts and media, his work draws attention to our collective role in current conflicts and, through his unique installations, prompts us to imagine a different future.”

The Wendy Michener Lecture, named in commemoration of the Canadian arts critic and journalist, was established at York University in 1986 to provide a forum for discussion of vital issues and developments in culture and the arts. Some of the past presenters of the lecture include journalist Anna Maria Tremonti, artist Matthew Ritchie and creative industries executive Hael Kobayashi.

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