Beyond The Thunderdome: Genetic Art (Really)
“Since DNA profiling came on the scene in 1987, developments in human genetics have made us more aware of how our genetic make-up influences our lives, from how much we drink to our likelihood of getting cancer. One positive example of this awareness is the do-it-yourself biology movement. Genspace, a community lab located on the seventh floor of a building in downtown Brooklyn, allows members to perform all manner of experiments once confined to science class, like extracting and analyzing their own DNA or growing different kinds of bacteria.
Recently, a new arrival has burst into the scene at Genspace. Heather Dewey-Hagborg, a 30-year-old Ph.D. student studying electronic arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., has the weird habit of gathering the DNA people leave behind, from cigarette butts and fingernails to used coffee cups and chewing gum. She comes to Genspace to extract DNA from the detritus she collects and sequence specific genomic regions from her samples. The data are then fed into a computer program, which churns out a facial model of the person who left the hair, fingernail, cigarette, or gum behind. Using a 3-D printer, she creates life-sized masks that offer a depiction of what the anonymous DNA donor might look like. And they may be coming to a gallery wall near you, with a show at the New York Public Library slated for early 2014.” — Future Tense, Slate.com