1. Home
  2. World
  3. Third Eye: Professor Has Camera Implanted

Third Eye: Professor Has Camera Implanted Surgically In Skull

A New York University professor has had a camera implanted in the back of his head - and it was done all in the name of art, says a media report.  Iraqi-born Wafaa Bilal had
PTI December 04, 2010 17:29 IST
A New York University professor has had a camera implanted in the back of his head - and it was done all in the name of art, says a media report.  

Iraqi-born Wafaa Bilal had the procedure done at a piercing studio last month for a project commissioned by a museum in Qatar.  

The camera will broadcast everything he 'sees' to the public and will be transmitted to Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in time for their December 30 opening.

The project, called The 3rd I, will take snap-shot photographs each minute of his everyday activities for one year, Bilal said. 

The waterproof camera will capture everything from him taking a shower, walking down the street, to even him having sex.

Bilal shaved a square patch of hair before a titanium plate was inserted inside the back of his head. A small camera was mounted on the base plate which connects magnetically. He has a cable runs from the camera to a computer which he carries in a custom-made shoulder bag.

'Yes it hurt a lot', he said in response to whether the procedure carried out under local anaesthetic was painful. 'I wanted to lose that subjectivity of knowingly taking photographs', Bilal said.  

'At the same time I wanted to capture everyday mundane images. He says the project is 'a comment on the inaccessibility of time, and the inability to capture memory and experience.'

After an uproar over privacy issues, Bilal has agreed to conserve the privacy of his students at Tisch School of the Arts by wearing a lens cap on the camera when he's on campus.

University spokesman John Beckman said: 'We place a high value on his right to free expression in his creative work as an artist. But as a school of the arts, we also take seriously the privacy issues his project raises.  

The Qatari museum's curator Till Fellrath said: ‘He's not really a photographer, he's not really a video artist, he's not really a performance artist. 'Whatever artwork he creates, he doesn't want people to just look at it, he wants them to participate in it.' Having an 'eye' at the back of his head is not Mr Bilal's first controversial project.  

In 2008, he created an artwork called ‘Virtual Jihadi' in which he added himself as a character in a video game, posing as a suicide bomber hunting George W Bush. The exhibition was eventually shut down after a wave of protests.  

In June this year Bilal had the names of Iraqi cities tattooed on his back with dots to mark American and Iraqi casualties. Bilal believes his artwork has a deeper meaning than just to get attention. He said: 'I see myself as a mirror reflecting some of the social conditions that we ignore'.

A New York University professor has an eye in the back of his head after undergoing a surgical procedure to install a camera in his skull, part of an art exhibition commissioned by a new museum in Qatar.

“I am going about my daily life as I did before the procedure, but I ask for a period of rest before I am going to give any interviews,” Professor Wafaa Bilal said in a statement issued Tuesday through a spokeswoman, Mahdis Keshavarz.

The surgery was performed in the U.S., according to Keshavarz. She declined to specify the hospital or doctor, saying Bilal preferred not to disclose that information until after he has healed. She also declined to specify the precise date of Bilal's surgery, though as recently as Friday evening she said the procedure had not yet been performed.

The thunmbnail-sized camera implanted in his head will automatically snap one photograph per minute for an entire year, as The Wall Street Journal reported last week. Bilal, an assistant professor in the photography and imaging department of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, intends to activate the camera on Dec. 15.

The project, titled “The 3rd I,” was commissioned by Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. Bilal plans to broadcast a live stream of images from the camera to monitors at the exhibit in Qatar, scheduled to open Dec. 30.

Last week Bilal   launched a website connected to the project. Whether a live feed of pictures from his head-camera will also appear on his website remains unclear.

“‘The 3rd I' builds on my previous body of work in combining various art forms, such as performance art, digital art, body art and photography, into a unique conceptual piece expressed in my own unique artistic language,” Bilal said in his statement.

His project has caused debate on NYU's campus as administrators and faculty have struggled to determine how to prevent any violation of student privacy. The school is still determining what rules it will set for the professor and his camera on campus.

The school has drafted a letter detailing the regulations it intends to impose on Bilal and his camera while he is on university property, according to a person familiar with the matter. The letter is currently under review by the school's legal counsel, this person said.

A spokesman for the university, Richard Pierce, said Tuesday that no agreement has yet been signed between the school and Bilal. But a deal is “supposed to be imminent,” Pierce said.