Stranger Visions is an exhibition of portrait sculptures created from analyses of genetic material collected in public spaces. The art work references research into forensic DNA phenotyping (determining appearance from DNA), to pose privacy and ethics questions that are heightened by our growing traceability through biotechnologies. Hair, skin, and saliva (e.g. on cigarette butts, chewing gum) feature amongst the numerous biological traces we unwittingly shed in the course of our everyday activities, that are used in legal forensics for identification purposes. In this work, the artist has taken specimens salvaged in the street back to the lab for DNA extraction and identification of the alleles (alternative forms of a given gene or genetic locus) that underpin variations in physical appearance. Using a custom computer programme she has written to correlate results of her analyses with database information representing physical genetic traits, she has parameterised a series of facial models and printed them as full colour 3D portraits using a rapid prototyping machine. These Stranger Visions form a disquieting gallery of portraits that evoke traditional death masks (facial imprints of the deceased), and constitute artistic speculations whose pseudo-realism is speciously wrought from laboratory data.
Heather Dewey-Hagborg (USA)
VIDA 15 - Special mention