Pinhole Camera Fashioned From 150 Year-Old Skull

Third Eye: a sculpture by artist Wayne Martin Bleger in which the 150 year old skull of a thirteen year old girl — strategically trephined &mdashl becomes a pinhole camera. Quoth Ectoplasmosis' Ross Rosenberg, whose prose I can blockquote wholesale by dint of the fact that I own his words:
Wayne Martin Bleger makes pinhole cameras using a variety of materials including precious stones, metals, human organs, and bone. This piece, entitled Third Eye, features many of these materials, all constructed around the 150 year-old skull of a 13 year-old girl. The film is exposed to light through titular ocular cavity making a Polaroid momento mori. The photos taken with this camera (one of which is after the jump) stay with the theme, their blurriness and patina making them look as if they were snatched from the memories of the dead.
Gizmo Watch, bless them, wants no ambiguity in regard to why we should all find this skull camera rather interesting, with a bolded What's Innovative heading that reads:
The Third Eye pinhole camera isn’t a regular plastic contraption. Making use of a 150-year-old skull as the camera structure is not just innovative, but unbelievably creative. If you can peep through a skull and see death’s pale visage staring back at you, rest assured excitement will not be the instant feeling.
Indeed! Boy of Blue Industries [Artist's Site via Ectoplasmos via Gizmo Watch]
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31 Responses to Pinhole Camera Fashioned From 150 Year-Old Skull

  1. Banksynergy says:

    I think it’s really clever and looks great… but, would I want my scull used in the same way? Hell no.
    I agree that the method with which the skull was obtained is important… the answer couldn’t make it no longer be “art”… just change the type of art, I guess.
    Not all art needs to be explained or have the origins of it’s parts detailed… but I think it’s fairly acceptable to view human remains in a bit of a different light.

  2. Banksynergy says:

    …yes, I know. “skull”, not “scull”.
    Half an hour until work ends and I think my brain is already powering down! :)

  3. aarzey says:

    I teach anatomy to med students, and we work with donated bodies. There are strict standards about respect for the bodies, and that the human beings who once were alive.

    This camera bothers me for the reasons above, but also, there’s a slippery slope argument. How would the people who are saying “cool” if it turns out it was their mother/brother/lover/best friend who had their hands/feet/tongues/genitals cut off and arranged in a large exhibit of other body parts and called “art”? If they said “yes” that’s fine, but what if they didn’t?

    Informed consent is critical in science and medicine. There is no reason why it shouldn’t be in Art, too.

  4. PaulRedeker says:

    During the zombie war, barriers to keep out the undead hordes were often made from the bones of the infected, after they were first burned.

    This somehow bothers me more. Possibly because its purely non function.
    At least the barriers serves a purpose, the dead, protecting the living against the undead.

  5. Anonymous says:

    She’s dead. Everyone who knew her while she was alive is dead. Last I checked, dead people don’t feel any particular way about anything. So reverence of bones (whose previous living state has no link memorable to extant human consciousnesses) solely for reverence’s own sake doesn’t strike me as a moral imperative.

    I understand why some folks would find it unsettling, but 1) it’s just so much calcium phosphate and 2) those photos are pretty cool.

  6. mgfarrelly says:

    I think it’s a desecration of human remains.

    Yes, this girl is dead, and for a good long time, but just as I don’t think everyone should be fair game once they flatline for organ harvesting, I don’t want some artist in 2300 to use my noggin for art.

    The wishes of the deceased to rest and rot in peace should be sacrosanct. This piece could have been done with a mold, easily.

  7. FreakCitySF says:

    god damn genius!

  8. Takuan says:

    what was her name?

  9. Anonymous says:

    #1> The point of art isn’t to make us think. This is a pet peeve of mine. Humans don’t need to be made to think: we do it naturally, if not always well. Education makes us think. Art isn’t education, and to imagine that it must have a pedagogical purpose is to reduce it to a puzzle or riddle or lesson, and take away an insipid moral from it. I deal with students just learning to read in a nuanced way, and they’ll often talk about the “moral” of a poem. Poems don’t have morals. They have philosophical arguments, sure, but they’re not meant as little aesops. They’re art. They do more than that. But I strongly agree with you that this particular piece is troubling. I hope that the artist, at least, treated the remains with the utmost respect.

  10. Anonymous says:

    So he used a human skull to make a piece of art…and the problem is?

    The original person is long since dead. It’s not like she was killed and boiled for her bones just last week. Humans display a ridiculous amount of reverence for something that basically just lays around and is of no use.

    I can understand the argument of reverence if she had died yesterday or last year…but 150 years ago?

    I say right on to this brilliant example of not only art but also recycling:)

  11. Anonymous says:

    was going to comment, then i read SCUBA SM’s post, and well, you’ve pretty much covered it – well done!

  12. oceanmajk says:

    That is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

    I would totally want my skull to be made into something this awesome after I’m dead. Hell, I wish I could take pictures that cool while I’m alive.

  13. verafides says:

    I think it’s amusing that the same people who go on and on about the sanctity of “Choice” in the context of issues like abortion or birth control, and of “Freedom” in the context of religious laws, are here completely content to not only trample all over this 13-year-old girl’s right to not have her skull used as a toy, but also aggressively enforce their own view of death and life on everyone else.

    The shock of the hypocrisy in that never really goes away for me.

    The main argument appears to be “She’s dead and everybody that knew her is dead, and therefore she is unable to defend her rights. And therefore we are free to take from her what we want. And besides, what I think about the afterlife licenses me to do whatever I want with her body.” Our present power over her body justifies are use of it for our own purposes. She can’t defend herself from this, and no one else can defend her from this either, so we are justified in asserting our own control of her body.

    In its most naked form, this is the logic behind all brutal and violent action in this world. Shame on those of you that support it. I hope that someday you will realize what you’re doing, but, considering what the realization of that would mean for you, I guess that means I hope you all go to hell.

  14. Hans says:

    If the skull is 150 years old, the owner could not have given consent. It would be interesting to know where it was acquired; there is a distinct possibility it came from a grave robbery.

    In any event, I tend to think it is an inappropriate use of someone’s remains.

  15. bobert says:

    According to his web site, he also has supposedly made other cameras with human remains including:
    – A 500-year-old Tibetan skull, blessed by a Tibetan lama
    – Blood from HIV victims
    – The heart of a human infant

    I guess the HIV-infected blood is okay with me as long as the donors knew what it was going to. The rest… well, I hope it’s a put-on. If it’s real, I find it pretty sick.

  16. Piedmont says:

    No different than any other display of bones in a museum. In fact, probably much more respectful and personal.

  17. CaseyE says:

    Can I use your grandmother’s skull to hold my toiletbrush? Mmmm. Yes. Damn disrespectful.

  18. Scuba SM says:

    Part of me thinks this is pretty cool. Part of me is a little horrified that human remains were used for it.

    On one level, I could agree with the “Well, they’re not using it anymore, so why can’t I use it for my art” argument. However, there have been some pretty disturbing and distasteful uses of human remains in the past (human skin lampshades and book covers made for certain Nazi officers as one high-profile example). A very large part of it is context for me. For example, a person who has donated their body to science, and has been used as a skeleton for teaching students is fine in my book, but simply taking the skeleton of a John Doe, or from a randomly selected grave isn’t. Another example: in the middle ages, some noted scholars would have their skin used to bind books of their writings, which I perceive as just fine. But the Nazis using the skins of people killed in their death camps to bind books upsets me greatly.

    All that being said, it matters a great deal to me how the artist obtained the skull of this 13 year old girl. It doesn’t particularly matter to me that it’s 150 years old. It also matters to me how and where it is being presented, and what the artists intentions are in creating the piece.

    Of course, the point of art is to make people think, and talk. In some cases, it’s also supposed to make people a bit uncomfortable. On all points, the artist has succeeded with me.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I’ll bypass your various (and baseless) political projections, and simply state that discussing the rights of the dead is like discussing the phrenology of unicorns.

    In its most naked form, this is the logic behind all brutal and violent action in this world.

    It most certainly is not. I presume you can appreciate the difference between the dynamic nature of a subjective actor and the inanimate objectivity of toenail clippings, and reciprocation of that favor would be appreciated.

    I hope you all go to hell.

    I’ll meet you -1^(1/2) of the way there.

  20. Phelyan says:

    I think there is a difference between a camera and a toilet brush holder, wouldn’t you say? You only made that comment to troll.

    Personally I would prefer if people took whatever organs could be harvested, whatever other tissue can be useful for research and medicine and burn whatever is left afterwards if anything. If my girlfriend wants to keep my skull as a keepsake then who am I to argue. Especially not when I’m dead.

    But I agree with what’s been said. There should be some artistic merit to things like that. Bind “The Rise of Cthulhu” with the skin off my head? If it pleases you. I’m giving you permission now, provided you wait until I’m dead.

  21. strider_mt2k says:

    The fist thing I thought was that it looked like the skull if a Strogg, the antagonists in the “Quake” video game universe.

    “The strogg: Soulless fusions of decaying flesh and bone and metal. Twisted and ruined from centuries of war….”

    In the world v.2008 anything and everything is for sale. My guess is that this came from Asia, but that is purely an assumption on my part.

  22. Takuan says:

    sick? No. The reverence is apparent in the craft and care. We are meat. We are dust. Only our names are sacred.

  23. Takuan says:

    one hundred and fifty years ago, perhaps this thirteen year old girl was forced to bring to term the fetus forced upon her by the rape of a priest – and died giving birth to it.

  24. dculberson says:

    Definitely tough to think about, hard to look at. But as Takuan says, the reverence with which it was made is obvious. I don’t think the specific person it’s from is as troublesome as the general concept, though. It would be nice to know the story behind where it’s from and how it came to be in his hands.

    Latente, you made your point twice. Which is kind of ironically amusing. (Is it actually ironic? I don’t know.) Really, though, this post is about a different camera by the same artist. Not a repost, sorry.

  25. Piedmont says:

    No, she’s still using it. Again, if you can’t tell the difference between a camera, especially one with theis much thought and care put into it, and a toilet bruch holder then stay the hell away from my Leicas for starters.

    Honestly, which is more respectful: Burying remains, like we do our garbage? Or treating her with respect, and offering continued admiration? You wouldn’t think twice about a dead 13 year old from a 150 years ago if she wasn’t gilded, cared for, and offered new purpose.

  26. grimc says:


    Well put.

  27. Latente says:

    Every repost is repost repost

  28. glittertrash says:

    Takuan, that’s exactly what I thought when I saw it: “Who was she? What was her name?” Not that I think that her skull shouldn’t be used this way, but it makes me want to know more about her. The context of this particular housing of the camera is important.

    This artist’s blood camera & the photos taken with it are an amazing body of work. It’s possible that having read about his work before makes me less quick to condemn his use of human remains in this work.

  29. Icaruswing says:

    It may be worth mentioning that you can purchase skulls (medical research specimens on ebay.(see: Skulls of this type often come with origin, sex and age, and generally are “stained” and “marked” in such a way as to identify them. I am guessing the this camera was built with one of these skulls – as from what I understand, they are the only ones that you can legally posses in the US anyway.

  30. MarkHeck says:

    CANT HAS BONG!!!!???? I CAN HAZ CAMERA????!!!!

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