NYU professor Wafaa Bilal had a camera implanted in his skull last fall as part of a year-long art project, and now it is giving him a headache. The camera apparatus was installed by a body modification artist at a Los Angeles tatoo parlor. It consists of a titanium base fixed between Bilal’s skin and skull. The camera is then attached with three posts. Bilal was undergoing antibiotic and steroid treatment, but his body still rejected the device and he was in constant pain. One of the posts has been removed, but the remaining two and the base are intact.
The camera takes a picture every 60 seconds, and the images are sent to a web site as well as being projected on screens at a museum in Doha, Qatar. Bilal said he was determined to continue with the project, and hopes that once he heals, a lighter camera can be attached. Meanwhile, he has the camera tied to the back of his neck with a string, and it is still feeding images to the website. The images we have seen so far look to be curtains.
So why is he doing this? The whole thing is a performance, and “With the performance comes endurance. But also it’s a commitment. And I didn’t feel that strapping something around my neck would be the same way I’m committed to the project as mounting it to the top of my head.”, Bilal said.
Bilal fled Iraq during the first Gulf War in 1991, and lived in refugee camps in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. He says he wished he had a record of the places he left behind. He also wants to slow life down and call attention to the present. “Most of the time, we don’t live in the places we live in,” he said. “We don’t exist in the city we exist in. Perhaps physically we exist, but mentally we are somewhere else.” Admirable, but this seems a very painful way of going about it.
Bilal also says that the project points to a future where communication devices will become part of our bodies.