In a Grain of Wheat: Cultivating Hybrid Futures in Ancient Seed DNA


Wafaa Bilal is an Iraqi-born American artist whose practice stems from the extreme tensions between the cultural spaces he occupies—his home in the comfort zone of the US, and his heart in the conflict zone of Iraq.

Artist Bio

In 2015, ISIS destroyed the Winged Bull of Nineveh, or lamassu, a 2,700 year-old Mesopotamian protective monument. Using leading-edge molecular biological archiving processes, Wafaa Bilal saves high-resolution 3D-scans of the sculpture inside the DNA of heirloom Iraqi wheat seeds, integrating the origins of civilization with postcultural planetary futures. Digital assets of the artwork, including the scanned data and cellular organisms, will be accessible for researchers, scholars, curators, and students, while the data-written wheat seeds will be preserved in seed banks. Site-specific installations of encoded wheat seeds, planted and grown, will celebrate the raw power of nature working creatively with humanity across the millennia.


Discipline
Bio Art, Sculpture
Award Year
2021
Status

In Progress

Iraqi-American artist and educator Wafaa Bilal looking soulful in a charcoal-grey, twill-weave wool cardigan layered over a distressed sage-green t-shirt, seated in the photography studio of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in Manhattan.

Wafaa Bilal

New York, NY

Wafaa Bilal is an Iraqi-born American artist whose practice stems from the extreme tensions between the cultural spaces he occupies—his home in the comfort zone of the US, and his heart in the conflict zone of Iraq. He is known internationally for his provocative, performative and interactive works exploring international and interpersonal politics post-conflict. The 2007 installation, Domestic Tension, informally titled Shoot an Iraqi, archived such friction head-on: occupying a “bedroom” containing a robotic paintball-gun in Chicago’s west-loop Flatfile Gallery, he invited audiences to shoot at him over the internet. The Chicago Tribune called it “one of the sharpest works of political art in a long time,” naming him Artist of the Year. His work is in the permanent collections of LACMA and Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography; international collectors include Qatar’s Arab Museum of Modern Art. Bilal is an Arts Professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.