CNN looks at Iraq-born artist and NYU photography professor Wafaa Bilal's new project, in which he embeds a camera in the back of his head. For his project "The 3rd I," the camera will take photos once every minute, around the clock for a full year. They'll be transmitted to Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art (which commissioned the project) in Doha, Qatr for the exhibition, Told / Untold / Retold: 23 stories of journeys through time and place, which opens Dec. 30. Happening just as Americans are in an uproar over privacy at airport checkpoints, he says he hopes the work will contribute to a dialogue about surveillance. But he also hopes to take the subjectivity out of photography, and acknowledges that much of what's transmitted to Qatr from the cable emerging from the circular camera on the back of his head will be mundane.
CNN makes a brief comparison to the helmet-cams war correspondents have used in places like Bilal's home country. While he doesn't seem to have such overt intentions, it does fit the (ahem) scope of past works like his "shoot-an-Iraqi" project Domestic Tension (2005), in which he was contained for one month in a cell-sized room where people could -- in-person or online -- shoot at him with a remote-control paintball gun.
And earlier this year, Bilal got his back tattooed with dots representing deaths of both Iraqi civilians and American soldiers in Iraq and a map roughly depicting where they died. Text accompanying video documentation of the project states that Bilal's brother Haji was killed by a missile at a checkpoint in their hometown of Kufa, Iraq in 2004.
Of Told / Untold / Retold, curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath told Nafas Art Magazine, "Today's artists are in constant transmigration across a diversity of cities and locations, yet never escaping redundant geographical labels through which their work is misconstrued. They are in perpetual metamorphosis, in a state of 'in-betweenness.' These journeys occur not only in place, but also in time."
Then, as if to reference Bilal's camera captures of what he's passed by, they added, "When you move and leave things behind, you remember, recollect and reconstruct, but you also reorient and redirect yourself. These are all acts into which time is intricately weaved."
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