Nov. 17, 2010 at 3:22 PM ET
An assistant arts professor at New York University is going under the knife for his art (photography), having surgery in three weeks to install a camera in the back of his head that will broadcast a live stream of images to the museum in Qatar that commissioned the project.
Before your own head explodes with that, let's see what Erica Orden at the Wall Street Journal reports on the "third eye" guy, who is blurring the lines between art and privacy with this unusual undertaking.
Wafaa Bilal is teaching three multimedia and digital courses this semester as a member of the photography and imaging department at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.
Orden obtained press materials from the museum, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, which is set to open in about six weeks, according to its Facebook page. Bilal's project, the double entendre "The 3rd I," is intended as "a comment on the inaccessibility of time, and the inability to capture memory and experience."
For one year, the camera inside Bilal's head "will take still pictures at one-minute intervals, then feed the photos to monitors at the museum. The thumbnail-sized camera will be affixed to his head through a piercing-like attachment, his NYU colleagues say," according to the WSJ.
Bilal has told his students about the project and while he's on campus, will cover the lens.
It's not the first time an artist has used a camera concealed on/in the body for art. In March 2009, MSNBC.com told you about a one-eyed documentary filmmaker who had a video camera concealed inside a prosthetic eye.
It's also not the first time Bilal has sacrificed his body to his art, nor does he seem to fear the inevitable backlash his often very political statements incur.
From his website:
Bilal's brother Haji was killed by a missile at a checkpoint in their hometown of Kufa, Iraq in 2004. Bilal feels the pain of both American and Iraqi families who’ve lost loved ones in the war, but the deaths of Iraqis like his brother are largely invisible to the American public.
…and Counting addresses this double standard as Bilal turns his own body — in a 24-hour live performance — into a canvas, his back tattooed with a borderless map of Iraq covered with one dot for each Iraqi and American casualty near the cities where they fell. The 5,000 dead American soldiers are represented by red dots (permanent visible ink), and the 100,000 Iraqi casualties are represented by dots of green UV ink, seemingly invisible unless under black light. During the performance people from all walks of life read off the names of the dead.
His brother's death also spurred the "Domestic Tension" interactive installation. He allowed Internet viewers to film him 24 hours a day for a month via a remote-controlled paintball gun. In fall 2008, City Lights published the book, "Shoot an Iraqi: Life, Art and Resistance Under the Gun," about Bilal's life and the project.
The bio from the NYU website elaborates a little on the controversy surrounding him:
But it is the resulting dialogue that Bilal seeks, as an artist who feels he does not have the privilege to create work that is not political. In the face of a war that stretches on, the 2004 deaths of his brother and father, and the violence in his own history, Bilal seeks to imbue his audiences with a sense of empowerment that comes from hope in the enduring potential of humanity. In 2008, Bilal’s controversial video game piece “Virtual Jihadi” was censored by the city of Troy, New York and Rensellaer Polytechnic Institute. In the wake of these incidents, Bilal was named one of the year’s “15 Most Politically Fascinating People of 2008” by the online magazine GamePolitics.com.
I don't know about you, but I'm intrigued by what he'll show us with this next project.