I got this not so random email from Ted Blog the other day, the topic DNA and Art, elixir to my brain, so I really did not pay much attention to the sender. In a moment of paranoia, I assumed Google big brother was watching me. Really, it was just YPVWT, my big sister watching. My paranoia is stoked by continued news coverage about data serving and surveillance. You know, information being served to you based on the data analysis and of you search patterns.
Heather Dewy- Habourg is a graduate Interactive Telecommunications and Information Arts and has “nuff “love for DNA analysis to get this art project off the ground. Literally, picking up random stands of hair, chewing gum and cigarette butts to create 3D portrait of unknown people. The 11 minute documentary is thick with Medical Laboratory Technology jargon, but for a society raised on CSI and Bones, it’s probably easy to digest.
But for me as a ex med lab tech my first thought was ” where does an artist get the cash and the expertise to access DNA analysis equipment and databases?” Watch the video long enough and you will find Heather is a member of GENspace “A Nursery for Explorers and Entrepreneurs” which give members access to biotechnology for commercial, artistic or fun projects, that ‘s marketing code for “collab hack science lab”.
Long story short my girl extracted and analysed small portions of the found DNA and mapped it to databases full of genes which helped her identify traits of ethnicity hair colour and skin colour. Ok it is a long story… she then used computation data crunching programs, which she designed to develop the portraits, enough for her to feed the 3D printer with a composed image of a 25 year old stranger.
Haboug spine tingling data/art/ science/forensic/ 3D experiment is not new. From a conspiracy theorist point of view I sure that governments around the world are way ahead of Habourg so called art project. Heather’s ambitious project opens my eyes to the potential of whole capitalist industry of genetic surveillance collaborating with pharmaceutical and the criminal forensic science. We now live in a world where privacy and data surveillance is big money business . While Habourg viewing of a person’s genetic information without their knowledge or consent is provocative from a scientific and artistic perspective but others may find it frightening and generate levels of paranoia.