Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just when you think noone's looking

Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi artist and assistant professor at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts' photography and imaging department, is causing a stir with his latest artistic experiment - dubbed “The 3rd I,” - wherein images from a thumbnail-sized camera implanted at the back of his head will broadcast live to an exhibit in a museum in Qatar scheduled to open in December. The camera will be attached using a method similar to piercing. The artistic endeavor is "a comment on the inaccessibility of time and the inability to capture memory and experience," according to the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, where the installation will be displayed. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bilal will have the camera in his head for a year, and it will take pictures in one-minute intervals. NYU is now looking into the issue as questions have been raised whether he will have the camera on while he teaches at NYU and whether students' privacy may be invaded.

It amazes me how far some people would go for art’s sake. This concept of having a “3rd eye” and allowing everyone a “view” that humans don't naturally get, is surely very innovative and creative. However, the project must take into consideration a lot of factors if it wants to get its desired results. For one, it will hit privacy issues as it will capture people who are unaware of the camera, did not give their consent, and do not want to be documented. On the other hand, people who are aware that this man has a camera will behave differently by either drawing attention on themselves or avoiding the camera, since psychology studies show that people act differently when they know someone is watching. But then again, maybe Bilal does not have a desired result in mind and instead wants to capture all those different reactions, both the welcoming and the violent.

Bilal was also the man behind the 2007 project called "Domestic Tension," where he confined himself to a gallery in Chicago for a month, inviting the public to visit a website where they could “shoot” the artist by remotely firing a paintball gun at him. In 2008, he came out with the controversial video game piece, “Virtual Jihadi,” which ended with a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union as Bilal hacked a video game and put an avatar of himself in the game and then appeared as a suicide-bomber hunting Former President George W. Bush.

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To see countdown to the project: (

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