November 17th, 2010
10:46 AM ET

Professor to implant camera in the back of his head

Professor Wafaa Bilal, known for his eyebrow-raising experiments, like having people shoot paintballs at him over the Internet, has a new idea sparking concerns.

Remember when your mom warned you she had eyes in the back of her head? She might have been onto something.

Because a New York University professor is doing exactly that - surgically implanting a camera in the back of his head in the next few weeks. Why? It's art, duh.

Professor Wafaa Bilal, who works at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts' photography and imaging department, is causing a stir because of his artistic experiment raises privacy concerns.

Bilal, who has a countdown on his website for the project - dubbed 3rdI - will have images from the camera broadcast live from the back of his head to an exhibit in a museum in Qatar scheduled to open in December.

The camera, which will be the size of a thumbnail, will be attached using a method similar to piercing, according to The Wall Street Journal, which spoke to Bilal's colleagues familiar with the project.

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.

The Journal reports that Bilal will have the camera in his head for a year, and it will take pictures in one-minute intervals.

What will museum visitors see? Well, that depends on Bilal's travels, which is where the controversy comes in. Questions have been raised as to whether he will have the camera on while he teaches at NYU and whether students' privacy may be invaded. NYU is looking into the issue.

"As a school of the arts, a school whose mission is to educate artists, we place a high value on his right to free expression in his creative work as an artist, and take that principle very seriously," NYU Spokesman John Beckman said in a statement. "But as a school of the arts, we also take seriously the privacy issues his project raises, its impact on our students and the importance of preserving trust in the pedagogical relationship between a faculty member and students.

“There have been numerous conversations since Professor Bilal informed us of his project as we sought to find the right balance; we think they have been constructive and productive. We continue to discuss with him the right mechanism to ensure that his camera will not take pictures in NYU buildings.”

This isn't the first time the Iraqi artist's experiments have caught people's attention.

His work "Domestic Tension," where he stood in front of a paintball gun and allowed people to shoot him over the Internet 24/7, caused widespread buzz online.

His controversial video game piece, “Virtual Jihadi,” ended with a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union. 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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Filed under: Art • New York • Technology
soundoff (213 Responses)
  1. Parrot

    Considering the time difference between NYC and Qatar, won't the museum-goers see a whole lot of nothing while this yahoo is asleep?

    November 17, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Police

      They'll get a good look at his boyfriend's face, late at night. Zoom in, zoom out, zoom in, zoom out, faster, faster, etc.

      November 17, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Big Brother

    Not if NYU has frequency Jammers installed.

    November 17, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Laura

    This is what $50,000+ in tuition will get your kids at NYU, eh? I can't believe NYU still has this whack-job on their payroll. I hope the CIA and Homeland Security keep tabs on this weirdo.

    November 17, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nats

      It would be easy to keep tabs on him.... just watch the video.

      November 17, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gonzo

      I couldn't agree more

      November 17, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Skeer

    How utterly stupid. Not art at all

    November 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DDave

    No worse than wrapping islands in colored toilet paper and calling that art. This is actually more interesting

    November 17, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bobington

    Wow the speling poliece are out here in farce todaie!

    November 17, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      indead. indead thiy air.

      November 17, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. LoL

    Fun idea.
    I think if I should ever get a colonoscopy,
    I'll stream it online...
    as "a comment on the inaccessibility of time and the inability to capture memory and experience"

    November 17, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Perfect Spelling

    I otterly do nut like this dud. I rarely think NYC should send him Homer and let him just play with some Plato. Get a mime instead. Everyone loves mimes.

    November 17, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. berational

    For those of us who wonder if what we are not seeing is the same as what we are seeing, it should be interesting. I think it would be psychologically disturbing to always see as if you are leaving rather than always going somewhere, the view from your eyes.

    November 17, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. berational

    howzatnow: I don't see it looking backward in time. The camera on the back of your head records the change in scene after your eyes have seen something, for example, walking down a hall. The camera simply sees the sequel to what your eyes see.

    November 17, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. everyone

    Yeah sure . . . let's get the creepy lawyers involved.

    November 17, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Police

    God, what a moron. Why would any university give this guy employment?

    November 17, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • berational

      His work makes you ask questions, makes you think about things. Thats why.

      November 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Police

      You will know I've seen this guy if you suddenly see a fist flying toward the camera.

      November 17, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ron


    November 17, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Robert

    It would have been much more interesting it he was to have his camera linked with the vision center of his brain, giving him a real "eye in the back of his head". It would have been interesting to find out how his brain would manage the information from this third eye and integrate it with the info of the other two eyes.

    November 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bama

    Well, I am not sure what to think of this. It's different and it's one way to get attention, if that is what he is looking for. $$$$$

    November 17, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
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