Artist Uses DNA

A gooey wad of green chewing gum. An old cigarette butt. A snarly mess of human hair. What do these mundane and somewhat distasteful objects all have in common? All of them are items casually disposed of, every day, on busy city streets in bustling metropolitan cities throughout the world. Most of these unwanted bits of refuse eventually find their way into sidewalk cracks or gutters, never to be thought of again.

Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg Artist Uses DNA thinks about them, though, and early last month she went on a found-object hunt, searching for several of these abandoned items along the streets of Brooklyn, New York. Once safely carted back to her studio and with DNA analysis completed on these precious butts, wads of gum and hair, she had at least three specific character traits of the previous owners which could help identify who they were. Then, Heather set about incorporating them into her creative vision.


Artist Uses DNA In Found Objects To Create Portraits (Video)


Creative Vision
It all started when Heather Dewey-Hagborg Artist Uses DNA became obsessed with the idea of how much she might be able to tell about who a person is, from a single strand of that person’s hair. This led her to create original software capable of making three-dimensional portraits based on character traits which could be derived from the DNA contained in these found objects.

Identifying Traits
The result? A unique technological exhibit of portraits based on three primary
identifying traits found in the DNA of the saliva and hair retained in items of which others had disposed on city streets. Basic DNA samples supplied Dewey-Hagborg with the previous owner’s gender, eye color, and their mother’s ethnic heritage and gender.

Dewey-Hagborg readily admits her portraits aren’t actual depictions of the individuals who disposed of the Marlboro Light cigarette butt, or the wad of green gum, but instead they are composites of several facial characteristics based on the Artist Uses DNA found in the objects. She toyed with the idea of making the software opensource, but for now has elected to make it available only to her friends. This is commonly referred to as friendware.


Why Maternal Ethnicity and not Paternal?
Maternal ancestry is passed through the DNA in the form of mitochondrial DNA. Paternal ancestry is not. For this reason, maternal heritage can be uniquely traced back further than any of the written records of which we are currently aware. Paternity tests can establish, via a comparison method, the paternity of an individual but not establish paternal ancestral lineage in the same way as maternal information can be established.


Future Portraits and Exhibits
Artist Uses DNA Dewey-Hagborg wants to include other available character traits like freckles and obesity in her future work. As technology improves and our understanding of encoded DNA information, she may be able to zero in on identifying features making her portraits much closer to the likeness of each found-object’s original owner. Her current portraits are a thrilling example of art based on bio-tech information.


image source

Mark is the owner of GTL DNA, a UK based company accredited by the Ministry of Justice tp administer genetic and peternity tests.



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