Prof to surgically implant camera for Qatar art project

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Wafaa Bilal intends to undergo surgery in the next few weeks to install the thumbnail-sized camera (for illustrative purposes only). Getty Images

Wafaa Bilal intends to undergo surgery in the next few weeks to install the thumbnail-sized camera (for illustrative purposes only). Getty Images

A US-based photography professor will have a camera implanted in the back of his head as part of an elaborate art project commissioned by a Qatar museum.

Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi assistant professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, intends to undergo surgery in the next few weeks to install the thumbnail-sized camera, which will broadcast a live stream of images to visitors at the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art.

The artwork, titled ‘The 3rd I,’ will be among the inaugural exhibits of Mathaf when it opens its doors in Doha next month, the Wall Street Journal reported.

For one year, Mr Bilal's camera will take still pictures at one-minute intervals, which will be fed to monitors at the Gulf museum.

According to press materials from the museum, cited by the paper, the project is a comment on the inaccessibility of time, and the inability to capture memory and experience.”

Gas-rich Qatar has invested billions of dollars in recent years in an effort to become a cultural hub in the Gulf. The emirate is home to the I.M.Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art and, in October, Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani said he would be keen to buy London auction house Christie’s.

“We are building a museum and it [Christie’s] has links with the stuff we are collecting for our museum. It depends on the opportunity – if we had a good opportunity we would not hesitate,” he said.

It is not the first time Mr Bilal’s work has caught the headlines. In 2008, he hacked a video game to insert an avatar of himself as a suicide bomber tracking former US President George W. Bush. The project, called ‘Virtual Jihadi’ caused a storm of protests that eventually forced the close of the exhibition.

In June, Mr Bilal tattooed on to his back a map of Iraqi cities for a work called "...and Counting." The names of the cities were spelled out in Arabic script, with dots added to mark the location of American and Iraqi casualties.


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