In a bizarre merging of technological advancement and artistic exploration, New York University professor Wafaa Bilal has implanted a camera into the back of his skull. (Technically, a titanium plate and magnet have been surgically implanted, and the camera is attached thusly.) The camera is set to take one picture every minute for an entire year, with the camera streaming to monitors at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in an exhibit known as “The 3rd I.” Bilal has been planning this for some time, and making headlines for the concept, but with the camera now firmly affixed to his head, the project is now very real. Bilal has also launched a website that currently features a counter ticking down until the day the exhibit officially launches — December 15th. Neither Bilal nor Mathaf have made it clear whether they intend to stream the cameras feed to the website once the project officially begins.
Despite the fact that it will not begin for several days, the experiment has already stirred up controversy as many of Bilal’s university students have expressed concern over their privacy. The school itself has officially announced that they will have very specific restrictions placed on Bilal while he is on campus, and Bilal himself has already agreed to cover the camera while he teaching.
The “wow” factor of installing a camera in your head aside, the project raises the question — what is the merit here? Other than the implant, there’s not much to differentiate it from the glut of “a picture every day” videos on YouTube. Granted, Bilal has them beat in terms of sheer volume, but if the camera is going to be blocked for several hours a day, how interesting can this feed really be? One must consider, especially given his history, that Bilal may simply be looking to stir up controversy; this project is not so much about the “what” or “why” as it is the how. Art is often designed to spark debate and controversy, so we encourage you to share your comments below. If you’re interested in learned more about Bilal’s process, CNN breaks it down in more detail: