Professor to have camera implanted in head

A photography professor at NYU accepts a commission from a museum in Qatar to have a camera stuck into the back of his head to stream images. Why not the front of his head?

Perhaps, like me, you will do anything for money. I mean, for art.

So you will be among the first to understand why Wafaa Bilal, a professor of photography at NYU, has accepted a proposition to have a camera implanted into the back of his head that takes shots of what is going on behind his back.

Wafaa Bilal
Wafaa Bilal, pictured in his video installation "Domestic Tension," will now have a camera implanted in the back of his head. WafaaBilal.com

According to The Wall Street Journal, Bilal will shortly enjoy surgery to have the camera inserted comfortably so visitors to Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar can themselves enjoy a live stream of images of Bilal's behind, or, rather, of what's behind Bilal. You see, the museum has commissioned this implanted spontaneity for a project called "The 3rd I."

The camera will reportedly be of mere dime size, but the apparent intention is that it should remain in place for a year.

I have never thought too much about what is going on behind my back. I expect there are nasty people making strange international signs, as well as sofa cushions wriggling to make themselves comfortable beneath my bulk. So one wonders why the back of the head was chosen rather than the front.

Artistically speaking (and that is a separate language altogether from English), the museum reportedly declares that this work of art is "a comment on the inaccessibility of time, and the inability to capture memory and experience."

It is, indeed, difficult to capture a memory of something you never see because it's behind you. But there are already voices of discomfort emerging from behind Bilal's back. Naturally, given that he is a professor, some students and faculty members are wondering what images of their own behavior might be spontaneously emitted over to the Emirates.

The professor has reportedly agreed to wear a lens cap while he's at work.

But he and controversy have undoubtedly enjoyed much extracurricular activity. For example, in 2008, Bilal reportedly hacked into a modified version of the first-person shooter game Quest for Saddam and inserted an avatar of himself on a quest to kill President George W. Bush.

And in 2007, Bilal mounted a video installation called "Domestic Tension" that invited the public to log on to WafaaBilal.com to splatter the artist with paint using arrow icons to maneuver a remote-control paintgun. The Iraqi-born artist said he viewed the constant assaults as a metaphor for the danger and confinement his family and others face back home.

I feel sure that you will want to follow the back of Professor Bilal's head with some intensity, musing on the meaning of your own inability to capture time, wrestle it to the ground and order it to stop moving.

 

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