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Wafaa Bilal: a thumbnail-sized camera implanted in the back of his head

The Iraqui artist plans to implant a camera in the back of his head to broadcast live to the museum in Doha, Qatar.
Nov 2010

The announcement of The 3rd I, a new spectacular project by Iraqui artist Wafaa Bilal, is making the news these days.

Commissioned by Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar, to open to the public on 30 December 2010, a thumbnail-sized camera will be affixed to the back of the head of the artist through a piercing-like attachment, and take still pictures at one-minute intervals, feeding the photos to monitors at the museum during one year.

There is not much information about the project on Wafaa Bilal's personal website yet. Just an entry under "calendar" refers to the preview days before the public opening of Mathaf: "December 15, opening reception of The 3rd I Doha Qatar", as well as a count down to this date connected to the project's website www.3rdi.me.

But, as curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath have confirmed to Nafas Art Magazine, The 3rd I is definitely one of the 23 newly commissioned works for their exhibition Told | Untold | Retold: 23 stories of journeys through time and place. From the three inaugural exhibitions of Mathaf this will be the one focusing on contemporary art. It will feature painting, sculpture, photography, video, multimedia installations and interactive digital art by: Adel Abidin, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Buthayna Ali, Ahmed Alsoudani, Ghada Amer, Kader Attia, Lara Baladi, Wafaa Bilal, Abdelkader Benchamma, Mounir Fatmi, Lamia Joreige, Amal Kenawy, Jeffar Khaldi, Hassan Khan, Youssef Nabil, Walid Raad, Khalil Rabah, Younès Rahmoun, Steve Sabella, Marwan Sahmarani, Zineb Sedira, Khaled Takreti, and Akram Zaatari.

In relation to the exhibition, Bardaouil and Fellrath wrote, "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. 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." (more information…)

It is in this curatorial framework where Wafaa Bilal's The 3rd I will unfold its meaning, in dialogue with the artworks of his artists colleagues.

In the context of the opening events of Mathaf, Nafas Art Magazine will feature the exhibition Told | Untold | Retold, and follow up on Wafaa Bilal's project as well. See the preview information:
>> Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art
... and Counting:

Earlier this year, in a 24-hour live performance on 8 March 2010 at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts (New York) Wafaa Bilal had his back tattooed with a borderless map of Iraq covered with one dot for each Iraqi and American casualty near the cities where they fell. The 5,000 dead American soldiers were represented by red dots (permanent visible ink), and the 100,000 Iraqi casualties are represented by dots of green UV ink, seemingly invisible unless under black light. During the performance people read off the names of the dead.

Wafaa Bilal's brother Haji was killed by a missile at a checkpoint in their hometown of Kufa, Iraq in 2004. Nevertheless he underlines in a statement: "My memories of Iraq and my disenchantment with politics have not left me cynical, nor drained of hope for humanity. On the contrary, I am filled with belief in the power of the people to control their own destinies, and I continue to believe in social justice. I hope to foster a sense of self-empowerment in my audience and to counter the sense of powerlessness people feel in the face of inhumanity."

Already in 2007, Nafas Art Magazine has reported about his project Domestic Tension:

>> Shoot an Iraqi

Wafaa Bilal locked himself in a room in Chicago for six weeks and let Internet users shoot at him with a paintball gun, in order to draw attention to the situation of people in Iraq. Article by Florian Rötzer.


(Information compiled by Nafas from different sources)

Wafaa Bilal:
The 3rd I

Part of the show:
Told | Untold | Retold: 23 stories of journeys through time and place
Curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath

30 Dec. 2010 -
28 May 2011

Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar

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