Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg created 3D portraits of complete strangers by harvesting DNA found on the street, like that in the form of saliva residue on gum or cigarette butts, fingernail fragments and hair. She calls this series ‘Stranger Visions’ and it is meant to bring attention to DNA surveillance databases and genetic surveillance issues – a subject that will be increasingly on our minds in the very near future.
“It all started with wondering what I could learn about someone from a little piece … they left behind,” says artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg. Using discarded items like cigarette butts, chewing gum, and fingernails, she extracted traces of DNA to create masks based on the owner’s genetic profile. While difficult to determine how closely these portraits match the original holder, they do put a human face on larger questions surrounding genetic surveillance. Filmmakers Veena Rao and Emily Sheskin present Dewey-Hagborg’s “Stranger Visions” series and her counter-surveillance product Invisible, a set of sprays she claims erases the majority of one’s DNA footprint.