The end product is of no importance. It is the creative process and the fact of sharing this process with everyone else, destroying its mysteriousness, destroying its capitalist value that is vital. Heather Dewey-Hagborg Theoretical Perspectives on Interactivity – Art and Freedom
Post-Conceptual¹ (my term) artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg has executed two related projects that speak to the issues of surveillance I have been discussing. The first of these, Stranger Visions started when she was in a therapy session staring at a framed print with a crack in its glass and a hair lodged in the crack. As her day progressed, the idea that genetic data surrounds us developed into the (post) concept of Stranger Visions.
She began collecting material likely to have DNA on them such as hair, cigarette butts and gum. She then extracted and analyzed the DNA from these samples. Using a computer program she developed, which codes genetic facial traits and generates a model to represent them. After tweaking the result she used a 3D full color printer to produce facial sculptures that have a “family resemblance” to the DNA donor.
[I]t is important to remember that this is art, not the development of a new product or company. This work is a provocation, designed to spur a cultural diaogue about genetic surveillance and forensic DNA phenotyping. What does it mean for an artist, an amateur, to do this? What are the implications for privacy issues as well as law enforcement? I think these are the major questions. We hear everyday about “digital natives” who don’t know how not to share their private data with the world, but here we all are, shedding hairs, nails, skin, and leaving saliva behind us all the time, without thinking about it as information. Stranger Visions Press Release
The second project of Dewey-Hagborg’s I’d like to discuss is Invisible.
Acing that interview? Don’t let your genes undermine your confidence. Be invisible.
Are you too big to fail? Don’t let DNA spill your secrets. Protect your prestige and be invisible
Spend the night somewhere you shouldn’t have? Erase your indiscretion and be invisible
Dinner with the prospective inlaws going smoothly? Don’t let them judge you based on your DNA, be invisible.
Exercising your freedom of speech? Be invisible and never get tracked. Invisible
For this project, Dewey-Hagborg has developed two sprays. The first deletes 99.5% of DNA it comes in contact with, and the other renders the rest unreadable by overwhelming any sample with extraneous DNA.
Dewey-Hagborg sold a limited edition of 100 pairs of sprays for $230. Certainly there are techniques to clean DNA from objects. This project is about invisibility embedded in convenience, not developing a product.
As Dewey-Hagborg points out DNA provides a way of identifying, gaining medical information and monitoring people.
You wouldn’t leave your medical records on the subway for just anyone to read. It should be a choice. You should be in control of how you share your information and with whom: be it your email, your phone calls, your SMS messages, and certainly your genes. Invisible is protection against new forms of biological surveillance. Invisible
At least conceptually.
¹ I use post-conceptual in recognition of Dewey-Hagborg’s critique of Conceptual Art as having sold out and then died. She also critiques the concept of art. She identifies herself however as an artist and her art is conceptual in nature. So post-conceptual is my attempt to recognize her position.