Anyone who has gone through New York in recent months may be unaware of Heather Dewey-Hagborg‘s Stranger Visions. This is a project that exacerbates the concept of surveillance, allowing it to creep into our most private and intimate sphere: our genetic profile. The artist has engaged with picking up hair, cigarette butts and chewing gum from roadsides and public places, before extracting DNA and inserting the data obtained into software able to reconstruct the facial shape of the owners of the organic material. Using a 3D printer, she has transformed those residues in real portrait sculptures. This provocative gesture questions the extreme ease of finding and manipulating an individual’s genetic information: each of us continually leaves around biological traces that are very easy to steal. It’s part of our nature as embodied subjects – there is no consensus that you can refuse to sign, no form for choosing not to enter personal data. The storage and handling of genetic information is a reality that today has practical implications in medical science and forensics activity. Stranger Visions is fearful of the involution of this reality in a scenario that seems sci-fi, but is already dramatically possible, a scenario in which it’s easily possible implement the most radical of identity thefts: cloning and genetic determinism. For Dewey-Hagborg the situation is extremely delicate, so much so that on her blog she expresses some doubts about the open source release of the software used to reconstruct faces – imagine the possible uses!
Stranger Visions, Somatic Traces Of DNA