[Image by Brad Farwell] Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal’s latest work, The 3rdi Project, began capturing images on December 15 from the “third eye” in the back of Bilal’s head — a surgically-implanted camera. The 3rdi Project will be unveiled in Doha, Qatar as part of the Told/Untold/Retold exhibition that inaugurates the new Arab Museum of Modern Art near Education City, Doha’s intellectual hub.
The camera spontaneously transmits one image per minute to a website, with the inaugural images to be displayed in a custom-designed room in the Doha gallery. Bilal’s piece will be part of the museum’s new permanent collection, 20 years in the making, including more than 6,000 works by Arab artists from North Africa to the Gulf, from the 1920s to the present day.
As an Iraqi refugee who fled the country in 1991 at age 25, New York artist Wafaa Bilal laments all the things he left behind… without the time or technology to document or reflect upon the images and moments that shaped his youth. The 3rdi Project will ensure that for the coming year not a single minute will pass without documentation.
Curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, the show is a key example of the rapid emergence of Doha and other Arab metropolises on the world art scene, a mission to facilitate the scholarly study and rewriting of the history and canon of Arab art. The theme of Told/Untold/Retold is storytelling, placing in a modern context the revered historical role of the “al-hakawati,” or storyteller, in Arab life. For Bilal, The 3rdi Project is a way to spontaneously document all the moments – mundane or exceptional, or somewhere in between – that make up a life.
Captured objectively without intentional framing or filtering as he goes about his daily life, the images will create a randomized and pure record of Bilal’s own reality. A professor of photo and imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, Bilal is known for interactive, unconventional and provocative pieces that use the internet as a platform to engage a wide audience. His 2007 work Domestic Tension had him sequestered in a gallery for one month with a paintball gun that people shot at him over the internet. His 2010 work …And Counting had his back tattooed, live online, with the names of Iraqi cities and 20,000 dots in invisible ink to represent the overlooked Iraqi casualties of the current war.