Technological Artwork Seeks To Objectively Capture Everyday Life

Christiaan Patterson

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Art work takes many different forms: painting, drawing, sculpting, dance, theater, etc. Even computer graphics can claim the title if used in web design. Photography is another traditional art form established over the past 100 years or so which offers an image captured by what the eye sees.

But what if the camera is not in front of your eye; instead is sewn to the back of your head?

This is exactly what one artist named Wafaa Bilal, an NYU art professor from Qatar, did last December in an effort to capture the everyday life of people from where we have been, rather than where we are going.

One other reason for this project is to show people how much the government is involved in our everyday life through video surveillance. With this, he hopes to convey how being watched has turned into accepted concept in society.

According to Popular Science, The camera itself is roughly the size of a half dollar coin and is secured to his head by three titanium posts connected to a plate underneath the skin. Once every minute, the camera will snap a picture of the world behind him for 365 days.

Since it needs a connection to the internet, Bilal carries a computer attached to himself with a USB cable connected to the camera. The system also uses WIFI capabilities in order to constantly upload new images to the website.

Bilal said that he is simply a storyteller with a more futuristic twist. This “third eye” is a way to capture his life which seems to fly by without notice and preserve a year with images.

He continues to elaborate on how traditional methods of taking pictures, using hands and eyes, creates an image that is subjective to what the viewer sees. By using this particular camera, it eliminates any influence of subjectivity and allows an image to just be captured in its rawest form. 

Bilal received an award for Artist of the Year in 2008 from a tattoo on his back depicting a map of Iraq and all the casualties of war, both American and Iranian. He has actively been involved on numerous other projects regarding political tension and internal society.

Unfortunately, his body rejected the implant. Around mid February, he had to have one of the titanium pins removed. This did not discourage him though, until he can invent a better method of keeping it attached to his body, Bilal will simply tie the camera to his neck.

The reviews for this latest project are receiving mixed opinions from the public. Some see it as a wonderful and original idea of art; while others see it as a freak show and therefore not artistic.

It does seem odd and more a science experiment rather than an artistic way of expression, yet it’s fascinating to see how far technology has come. High tech gadgets are the wave of the future as we all know by now and don’t hold the same awe-inspiring impressiveness in today’s world. However, looking back on how things use to be 30 or even 50 years ago, it really does hold a distinction all of its own.

Bilal’s project does raise a lot of questions and eyebrows with those who come across what is being conducted. Having a camera surgically placed into the back of your head is unique yet qualifies as borderline insanity.

Just how far should a person go to create new and fresh forms of expression in the name of artwork? Perhaps being a little on the insane side is required to get a point across since the average person wouldn’t go to these extremes, at least I hope not.

Despite the questions Bilal raises, I commend him on his efforts and ingeniously creative method of generating artistic work.

Follow his everyday life online at www.3rdi.me.