New York, 11 February 2011, Art Media Agency (AMA).
There has been much scepticism about Wafaa Bilal’s project to have a camera grafted onto the back of his head. Not only was the entire project seen as risky, but students at New York University, where Bilal teaches, have criticised the fact that the camera automatically uploads images from wherever the artist is, hereby infringing on the privacy of others. However, the most virulent criticism seems to be coming from the artist’s own body, which has rejected the implant.
The original operation took place in a tattoo parlour in Los Angeles, where a titanium base was inserted between the artist’s skin and skull. The camera was then mounted onto three posts, which also rooted the base to the skull. The artist’s body has rejected one of the metal posts and although he was prescribed antibiotics and steroids for the infection, the pain became so excruciating that Bilal had the device removed.
The project was entitled 3rdI and was part of an exhibition at the new MATHAF museum in Doha, which opened in December with an installation presenting live updates of images from Bilal’s camera. Although Bilal’s project seems shocking, it is part of a rich tradition of modifying the body in the name of art, although these operations are often dangerous. Stelarc, an artist that focuses on extending the capabilities of the human body, had an ear grafted onto his forearm.
Despite the setback, Bilal remains committed to the performance and has stated that he would like to repeat the experiment with a lighter camera.