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Rear Views

I guess we all wonder what’s happening behind our backs at least at one point in our life. Taking this literally you might just turn around to confront curious looks, but there are people that take this to the extremes.

Take the Rear View Girls. Two hot American girls, who integrated a camera into the back pocket of their jeans to film the reactions of passerby’s. Ranging from female evil eyes to horny male stares, there is little to no surprise in the caught reactions. It’s fairly entertaining though.



The project 3rdi by Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal is arguably less entertaining, but a whole lot more extreme and interesting. Bilal is known internationally for his on-line performances and interactive works provoking dialogue about international politics and internal dynamics. For his current project, the 3rdi, Bilal had a camera surgically implanted on the back of his head to spontaneously transmit images to the web 24 hours a day – a statement on surveillance, the mundane and the things we leave behind. Bilal’s 2010 work …And Counting similarly used his own body as a medium. His back was tattooed with a map of Iraq and dots representing Iraqi and US casualties – the Iraqis in invisible ink seen only under a black light. Bilal’s 2007 installation, Domestic Tension, also addressed the Iraq war. Bilal spent a month in a Chicago gallery with a paintball gun that people could shoot at him over the internet.

Wafaa Bilal explains: “The 3rdi is just a platform for the telling and retelling of another story. A camera temporarily implanted on the back of my head, it spontaneously and objectively captures the images – one per minute – that make up my daily life, and transmits them to a website for public consumption.



“During my journey from Iraq to Saudi Arabia, on to Kuwait and then the U.S., I left many people and places behind. The images I have of this journey are inevitably ephemeral, held as they are in my own memory. Many times while I was in transit and chaos the images failed to fully register, I did not have the time to absorb them. Now, in hindsight, I wish I could have recorded these images so that I could look back on them, to have them serve as a reminder and record of all the places I was forced to leave behind and may never see again.

“The 3rdi arises from a need to objectively capture my past as it slips behind me from a non-confrontational point of view. It is anti-photography, decoded, and will capture images that are denoted rather than connoted, a technological-biological image. This will be accomplished by the complete removal of my hand and eye from the photographic process, circumventing the traditional conventions of traditional photography or a disruption in the photographic program. Barthes has said, “…from an aesthetic point of view the denoted image can appear as a kind of Edenic state of the image; cleared utopianically of its connotations, the image would become radically objective, or, in the last analysis, innocent.” It is this ‘innocent’ image that I wish to capture through the 3rdi.”

What sounds like a spectacular idea results in somewhat unspectacular pictures on his website. A lot of repetition and wearing hats make the navigation through the rear view of Bilal’s life extraneous and boring. In December he will compile the pictures into a physical exhibition in Qatar and I’m sure that the sheer amount of physical pictures will be as interesting as they will be spectacular.

I find surprising that, while both projects make use of a similar technique they aim to capture the complete opposite. While Bilal based his project on the urge to capture an innocent and objective on what he leaves behind -a non-confrontational point of view, as he says- the Rear View Girls aim to confront bum-enchanted-guys and give a point of view that is everything but innocent.



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