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. peacelover

    I don't think it is good idea to allow him to take pics every minute..it is Invasion of privacy.. and moreover he want's them to be streamed in "Qatar"..... hope he should not misuse this pics... I think this is a National Security Issue...
    he must not be allowed to do that

    November 17, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. 14401

    Well, I didn't read all of the posts, and I'm surprised that some woman hasn't said it yet, but I know for 100% certain that my kids knew I had eyes in the back of my head. Just your average Mom. If I was this guy, I'd be afraid someone would undress in my lens and then I'd have to (oh well) you know the rest. In fact, why doesn't some loony Ca, do just that. Wow, that's a good idea. Stay away from the beaches Professor 3 eye.

    November 17, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. 14401

    Who needs a cell phone now, with a camera and cell phone hooked up in the back of his head. You take about static in your head on the job. I know the kids at his college can cook up something to short circuit him. You have to give him credit for a good effort at making a impact on everyone around him.

    November 17, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Babak from LA

      Buddy I think he short circut already!

      November 17, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. AlanParsons

    Wow, what a waste of money for all the students that take classes with this clown. Maybe a project like this would have been art in the 1990s when a first grader couldn't do with with $200 worth of equipment from Best Buy. If this is art, the art "community" is intellectually bankrupt, and they should all can themselves along with their own feces. There's a prof. at the University of Toronto who's been a cyborg for years, and what year did the Truman Show come out? So long ago that Jim Carrey isn't even funny anymore.

    November 17, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • AlanParsons

      Just to expand on my point, the cyborg dude is called Steve Mann and you can read about him on Wikipedia. He came up with the concept that this guy is ripping off here way back in the mid nineties. I think the only difference appears to be that this guy here is a Muslim, but I don't see how that matters. It's derivative, and stupid.

      November 17, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dike

    Well my concern is Americans being shown in a museum in Qatar? as what.... next targets???

    November 17, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Babak from LA

    I am not concerned about him sending pictures to where ever; Google earth does that. I just don't understand what this has to do with art. He did get us to talk about it so may be that is it. I like to hear from him, but have more serious issues to attend to. It is America; if this is how he wants to express himself and his freedom of expression does not impose on others' .. well have at it.

    November 17, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MassiveMarbles

    Professor, I'm not entirely certain that you're fully cognizant and in complete control of your faculties. What you are doing is not only a danger to your health but also has legal ramifications that limit the privacy of you and people around you. The pairing of metal to skin, especially near the brain could cause an infection resulting in blindness, internal hemorrhage of the brain, paralysis and eventually death. If I were you, I'd make out a will and check to see if your insurance carrier will still cover you!

    November 17, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. j

    I like this guy's style

    November 17, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JT

    This guy is an idiot.

    November 17, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bill

    Umm... he can't see the videos right when they're taken. Plus, it doesn't even take videos. It takes pictures

    November 17, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. newt

    Art professors make such boring art. that that distinguishes them from the run of the mill 98% of the marketplace or contemporary art museum holdings.

    November 17, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Deepwater805

    This is such a break through! Now when he sticks his head up his butt, he can do a colonoscopy at the same time....

    November 17, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Newyorker

    After Robocop, we have Roboprof! I wonder if it can teach better than a human professor.

    November 17, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rajiv

    This only proves once again how the USA respects the individual freedom of expression. Let him do similar acts in his land of birth against the government of that country,he wont be free for a next dumb act in 24 hours!

    November 17, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • SensibleAmerican

      Irrelevant conclusion. What's your point?

      November 23, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  15. carl botha

    For privacy he will have to wear a burka!

    November 18, 2010 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
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