NEW YORK (AP) — A New York University arts professor might not have eyes on the back of his head, but he’s coming pretty close.
Wafaa Bilal, a visual artist widely recognized for his interactive and performance pieces, had a small digital camera implanted in the back of his head — all in the name of art.
Bilal said Tuesday that he underwent the procedure for an art project that was commissioned by a new museum in Doha, Qatar, in the Arab Gulf.
Titled “The 3rd I,” it is one of 23 contemporary works commissioned for the opening of the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art on Dec. 30. The exhibition is entitled “Told/Untold/Retold.”
“I am going about my daily life as I did before the procedure,” the Iraqi-born artist said in a statement.
Bilal, who is teaching three courses this semester at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, will wear the camera for one year. It is 2 inches in diameter and less than an inch thick.
The project will raise “important social, aesthetic, political, technological and artistic questions,” he said.
He declined to say when the camera was implanted or other details of the art installation, saying it “will be revealed to the public as part of the museum preview on Dec. 15” and on a website to be launched on the same day, http://www.3rdi.me.
He said he chose to have it put in the back of the head as an allegorical statement about the things we don’t see and leave behind.
How it all fits together is still a bit of a mystery.
The camera will capture his everyday activities at one-minute intervals 24-hours a day and then be transmitted to monitors at the museum, said curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath of Art Reoriented, who commissioned Bilal on behalf of the museum.
“He doesn’t have to alter his lifestyle or what he does. In principal, he’s moving on with his life,” Bardaouil told The Associated Press from Doha. “It will be a three-dimensional, real space-and-time experience. Once the piece is revealed, you’ll realize that the camera is only one aspect of the work and there are aspects as important that will be experienced.”
The project has raised challenging questions for NYU, the nation’s largest private school with about 44,000 students.
“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 ...,” NYU said in a statement.