DNA sampling has broken down many doors with regards to unknown identities. It in no uncertain terms is the definitive way of positively identifying an individual. It is a process used by forensic scientists to aid in the recognition of people thru their own DNA profiles. It is has been particularly helpful for parental testing and many kinds of criminal investigations. Heather Dewey-Hagborg has a rather exciting and interesting project where she uses DNA to recreate faces.
The information artist and PhD student is currently assembling portraits made from DNA samples she is able to gather in public places. Hair, used chewing gum and cigarettes have all been collected of DNA residue which forms the basis for her project. She then analyzes the DNA, getting information about physical traits and appearance, which include gender, eye and hair color, complexion, genealogy, race and other factors that ultimately determine a person’s appearance.
After extracting the information, she inputs it into a computer program that uses the data to create a 3D model of the person’s face. The final process involves the 3D model being sent to New York University where a physical sculpture is created. The results are quite exciting, if not utterly astounding. Dewey-Hagborg even performed the same process on herself, and the DNA based sculpture looks uncannily like her.
She is briefly described in her website as,
“an information artist who is interested in exploring art as research and public inquiry. Traversing media ranging from algorithms to DNA, her work seeks to question fundamental assumptions underpinning perceptions of human nature, technology and the environment. Examining culture through the lens of information, Heather creates situations and objects embodying concepts, probes for reflection and discussion.”
While the work she has undertaken can lead to so many breakthroughs, particularly in connecting faces to unknown names, Dewey-Hagborg is quick to raise this caveat,
“…working with traces strangers unwittingly leave behind,” she raises the concern of “attention to the impulse toward genetic determinism and the potential for a culture of genetic surveillance.”
See the DNA based facial sculptures she has recreated here.