Wafaa Bilal, a New York University photography professor, had a small camera surgically implanted into the back of his head for a year-long art project according to the Associated Press. Mr. Bilal, a Tisch School of the Arts assistant professor, said the camera will take photos in one-minute increments and be transmitted to his art installation that will be shown at the new Doha, Qatar museum as part of the “Told/Untold/Retold” exhibit. The project entitled “The 3rd I” will begin on December 30 but a preview will be shown on December 15 on the installation’s website. Bilal declined to give any more the details of his upcoming art exhibit except that everything will be revealed in the December 15th preview.
The camera is 2 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick according to the Associated Press. The Wall Street Journal reported that the camera would be fixed to the back of his head through a “piercing-like attachment.”
Mahdis Keshavarz, Bilal’s spokesperson, told the Wall Street Journal that the surgery was done in the United States but declined to name the surgeon or hospital.
Mr. Bilal is an active professor and will continue teaching during his year-long art project. That means the camera’s eye will capture his professional and personal moments. This was an issue that was raised among NYU’s deans because they don’t want his project to violate students’ privacy. Fred Ritchin, associate chairman of Tisch, told the Wall Street Journal that students shouldn’t be under the burden of “constant surveillance.” But the school wants to balance freedom of expression and privacy and has yet to determine what restraints to put Bilal’s camera under.
Bilal’s previous work has also been controversial. In his 2008 “Virtual Jihad” work, Bilal inserted an avatar of himself into a video game as a jihadist who was on a suicide-bombing mission targeting President George W. Bush.