Artist Wafaa Bilal, aka Professor Camerahead, met with plenty of skepticism from people who questioned the wisdom of his headline-grabbing plan to surgically embed a camera in the back of his skull. Students at NYU, where Bilal teaches, also criticized the project's implications for on-campus privacy, given that his camera would be automatically sending pictures to the Internet every minute. Now Bilal has met his toughest critic yet: his own body, which has rejected the camera implant.
The original operation was performed at a tattoo shop in Los Angeles, where a titanium base was inserted between Bilal's skin and skull; the camera was mounted then on three posts attached to the base. However, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the artist's body rejected one of the metal posts, leading to constant pain. Bilal had been attempting to treat the infection with antibiotics and steroids, but last week could endure no more, and had the problematic post removed on Friday.
The performance, titled "3rdI," was part of a show at the new MATHAF museum in Doha, which debuted in December with an installation featuring live updates of the images from Bilal's head-cam. While baffling to many, "3rdI" actually draws on a quite rich tradition of body modification in art — though the hazards of such artistically inspired surgery are notable. The body augmentation artist Stelarc, for example, grafted a human ear to his forearm — but had to have it surgically removed after a nasty infection.
Despite the setback, Bilal remains committed to the performance. "I'm determined to continue with it," he said on Monday. How exactly this will happen is not clear, though he said that he hoped to try again with a lighter camera.
For the moment, he is simply proceeding by tying the camera, facing backward, around his neck.