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Brown University's Bell Gallery examines War in Iraq
Chair, 2003-2013. Archival inkjet photograph, 40” x 50”. Courtesy of the artist.

PROVIDENCE, RI.- The David Winton Bell Gallery presents two solo exhibitions featuring responses to the aftermath and consequences of the wars in Iraq. The American premier of The Ashes Series by Iraqi-American artist Wafaa Bilal and I am Sorry It is Difficult to Start by American artist Daniel Heyman both running until Sunday, May 26, 2013.

In addition, a screening of the documentary film Ghosts of Abu Ghraib by Brown alumna Rory Kennedy will be held on Thursday, April 18, at 5:30 p.m. in the List Auditorium.

The Ashes Series by Wafaa Bilal
The Ashes Series is composed of 10 photographs of models constructed by the artist over 10 years documenting the aftermath of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” This series builds upon Bilal’s provocative and innovative artworks that employ photography, installation, robotics, gaming, and video to create interactive works that explore the dissonance of war and culture. In all the photographs, Bilal has removed the human figures that were present in the original images. He has replaced them with 21 grams of human ashes that the artist measured and distributed throughout the 10 models before photographing them. The 21 grams alludes to the supposed mythical weight lost by the departure of the soul from the body at the time of death.

Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal, an assistant arts professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, is known internationally for his online performative and interactive works. In The 3rd I (2010-2011), Bilal had a titanium plate implanted on the back of his head to which a small camera was attached. Independent of the artist, the camera sent an image once a minute to a website as a statement on surveillance, on the mundane, on the things left behind. Bilal’s work is constantly informed by the experience of fleeing his homeland 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.

The Ashes Series is curated by Ian Alden Russell.

I am Sorry It is Difficult to Start by Daniel Heyman
Daniel Heyman’s Iraqi Portraits give voice to the former detainees of Abu Ghraib Prison. Between 2006 and 2008, Heyman traveled to Jordan and Turkey with American lawyer Susan Burke to witness the testimony of former prisoners held at Abu Ghraib and later released without charges. While lawyers collected statements for the lawsuit, Heyman sketched the likenesses of the detainees. Moved by the power of the Iraqis’ words, he began transcribing their testimonies directly onto his images. The exhibition, continues with portraits of witnesses of the Blackwater/Nisour Square shootings and a 10-by-12 foot expressionistic etching entitled When Photographers are Blinded, Eagles’ Wings are Clipped. While the Iraqi Portraits serve a dual purpose as art and document, When Photographers are Blinded… represents Heyman’s personal response to the war.

Painter and printmaker Daniel Heyman lives in Philadelphia and teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design and Princeton University. An exhibition of his Iraqi War images entitled Bearing Witness traveled throughout the United States between 2010 and 2012, and his work has been exhibited in major institutions including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Princeton University Museum of Art, and the New York Public Library.

The Heyman exhibition is curated by Jo-Ann Conklin.

Art and War in Iraq
The “Art and War in Iraq” symposium brings together American, Iraqi, and Middle Eastern artists, scholars, and critics to address the impacts of the wars in Iraq and the wider conflicts in the Middle East, with special attention to contemporary artistic practices in Iraq and its diaspora. Participants include Wafaa Bilal, Daniel Heyman, Meir Wigoder, Susanne Slavick, Rijin Sahakian, and Nada Shabout.

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