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Artist to Surgically Implant Camera in the Back of His Head

wafaa bilalWithin the next few weeks, a man named Wafaa Bilal will undergo surgery on his head -- not to address any neurological malady or troublesome tumor, but to implant a small camera on the back of his noggin. Bilal, a new media artist and assistant professor at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, is going through the procedure as part of a project called 'The Third I.' For one year, the Iraqi professor's thumbnail-sized, implanted camera will capture images at one-minute intervals. These images will then be live-streamed to monitors at a new modern art museum in Qatar, which commissioned the project.

According to the museum, known as Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, the work is intended to be "a comment on the inaccessibility of time, and the inability to capture memory and experience." Some, however, are worried that Bilal's constantly clicking camera may violate the privacy of those it captures. Bilal, who is currently teaching three courses this semester, initially intended to keep his camera on at all times -- even when he's in the classroom, or interacting with students during office hours. The proposal didn't sit too well with some of his colleagues. "Obviously, you don't want students to be under the burden of constant surveillance," says Fred Ritchin, associate chairman of the photography and imaging department at Tisch. "It's not a good teaching environment."

Following lengthy discussions with NYU faculty, Bilal agreed to put a lens cap on the camera while on campus property, and informed all of his students of his new project. When he's not at work, though, Bilal's free to capture anything and everything around him -- which may, of course, give rise to even more awkward interpersonal dynamics. As Ritchin points out, "I guess anybody accepting a dinner invitation will have to realize that certain things will be going on."

Tags: art, camera, installation, museum, nyu, privacy, qatar, tisch, top, wafaa-bilal, WafaaBilal