Artists Recreates Strangers’ Faces From Discarded DNA On NYC’s Streets

You’ve been leaving yourself everywhere. For her ongoing project Stranger Visions, Heather Dewey-Hagborg culls discarded DNA (in the form of cigarette butts, chewed gum, et cetera) from the New York sidewalk and then uses a 3D printer to create sculpture portraits based on the genetic information. A reminder that we may soon need to guard our DNA tightly?

In Stranger Visions artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg creates portrait sculptures from analyses of genetic material collected in public places. Working with the traces strangers unwittingly leave behind, Dewey-Hagborg calls attention to the impulse toward genetic determinism and the potential for a culture of biological surveillance. Designed as an exploratory project based on emerging science, the forecast of Stranger Visions has proved prescient. For an example of DNA phenotyping at work in forensics check out the companiesParabon NanoLabs and Identitas and read about their collaboration with the Toronto police. Also see Mark Shriver’s research at Penn State on predicting faces from DNA.


22 Comments on "Artists Recreates Strangers’ Faces From Discarded DNA On NYC’s Streets"

  1. Those are awesome!

  2. This is slightly disquieting.

    • No it’s really, really creepy. I have no doubt how this has impacted her sex life, or from the quality of her smile, lack there of. I mean can you imagine coming home and saying “Hi honey” to this one?

      • I don’t know but visions of Gattaca are going through my mind right now.

      • feint_ruled | Mar 12, 2013 at 10:39 am |

        I call bullshit on the whole face recreation thing, but it’s a strange Victorian era reaction to a female artists work merely to speculate on how it affects her marriageability or sex life!

        • Art? H.H. Holmes thought of his work as art too. A friendly word of caution, never read my posts with your P.C. goggles on. They are too thick and do not allow reality to seep through, obviously. I for one broke mine long ago when I figured out they were misleading and pointless, which is the only reason anyone would be here…

          Victorian era? I hear a cat laughing outside my window. I wouldn’t climb into bed with myself if I did this sort of thing. “Hi, honey, did you find any useful saliva residue from total strangers today?” That’s some kind of art. Meh!

          What’s next, toilet fish art?

        • Art? H.H. Holmes thought of his work as art too. A friendly word of caution, never read my posts with your P.C. goggles on. They are too thick and do not allow reality to seep through, obviously. I for one broke mine long ago when I figured out they were misleading and pointless, which is the only reason anyone would be here…

          Victorian era? I hear a cat laughing outside my window. I wouldn’t climb into bed with myself if I did this sort of thing. “Hi, honey, did you find any useful saliva residue from total strangers today?” That’s some kind of art. Meh!

          What’s next, toilet fish art?

      • I dunno. I like smart artsy chicks with weird quirks like that.

  3. feint_ruled | Mar 12, 2013 at 9:49 am |

    Sooo.. you can’t actually rebuild someone’s face from their DNA (if you can then the police are really missing a trick). So where the hell do they pull these likenesses from?

  4. I would tend to think this involves a lot of creativity for any feature beyond sex and eye color. I would be curious to know just how much is known in terms of facial features and the genes that code for them.

  5. The mysterious phenomenon of morphogenesis is responsible for facial features, NOT DNA.

  6. BuzzCoastin | Mar 12, 2013 at 8:34 pm |

    an interesting 8 minute piece about is here
    http://x2t.com/1/DNA
    in the story
    there’s a person whose DNA was given to her
    and he seemed rather surprised at the likeness she produced

  7. Invasion of privacy. That’s not my butt. Wait till see gets a reptoid and commits suicide.

  8. nostrafarious | Mar 13, 2013 at 3:26 pm |

    This is bullshit. Can’t be done to the level implied. Maybe they can determine geographical likelihood, but this article is crap.

  9. nostrafarious | Mar 13, 2013 at 3:26 pm |

    This is bullshit. Can’t be done to the level implied. Maybe they can determine geographical likelihood, but this article is crap.

  10. Apparently one or two people (who may even be related) are littering that city’s streets.

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