Featuring Eman El-Husseini
Curated by our 2023 Artist-in-residence, Wafaa Bilal, Amreeka: The Comedy Show was born after the 2016 election, bringing together diverse comedians with one thing in common: they love to complain. Then and since, the toxic culture and politics in “Amreeka,” as many Middle Easterners pronounce it, offers ample fodder for complaints. This cathartic and witty venting holds a mirror up to realities showing they’ve become so absurd and surreal one must laugh, if not cry.
For Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal, the show, just like his solo works, “is an artistic platform for creating dialogue and bringing people together on highly charged topics. Not politicizing laughter but laughing at politics as a form of solidarity and resistance.”
Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal is known internationally for his on-line 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. For his 2007 installation, Domestic Tension, Bilal spent a month in FlatFile Galleries where people could shoot him via a remote-access paintball gun. The Chicago Tribune called it “one of the sharpest works of political art to be seen in a long time”—naming him 2008 Artist of the Year. That year, City Lights published Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun about Bilal’s life and Domestic Tension. Using his own body as a medium, Bilal continued to challenge the public’s comfort zone with projects like 3rdi and and Counting…. Bilal’s work, Canto III, was included as part of the Iranian pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale. Bilal’s current work 168:01 brings awareness to cultural destruction and promotes the collective healing process through education and audience participation. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL; MATHAF: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar; amongst others. He holds a BFA from the University of New Mexico, an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was conferred an honorary PhD from DePauw University. Bilal is currently an Arts Professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.