NY Artist Collects Strangers’ DNA and Makes 3D Portraits of Their Faces

January 25, 2013 | Marina Galperina

Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg GOT YOUR FACE! No, really. Remember that strand of hair you left on in the bathroom stall, that piece of gum you dropped in a bodega, the cigarette butt you chucked on the side of the street?


With the help of the community biolab at Genspace in Brooklyn, Dewey-Hagborg build a 3D modeling software that analyzing the information of your DNA sample, tracks down your specific anthropological history and physical traits and constructs your portrait.

This is Stranger VisionsHey, stranger. I see you.

As a response to the contemporary “impulse towards genetic determinism and the potential for a culture of genetic surveillance,” the artist uses recovered sample and donated “open-source” genomes with uncanny results.

The Creator’s Project asks what the artist means by  “genetic surveillance.”

There is of course paranoia from media and I think a lot of it ultimately points to this question of identity and this big question mark that we all have when we try to think about who we are, what makes us, what defines us as people. DNA seems to be, scientifically, the closest thing we have to the source code for our identity. To think that it’s not as precious as we like to imagine, that we’re just discarding it at all times, throwing it around, to think that that could be cloned or that it could be used against us in some way… I think it’s a natural fear to have, and I don’t know that it is completely unknown.

You can see the project at Eyebeam Annual Showcase until 26th.  (Lead photo: Marina Galperina/ANIMALNewYork)