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Leaving Yourself Behind

I saw an interesting story on the New Scientist RSS feed yesterday: Artworks highlight legal debate over ‘abandoned’ DNA.

An artist in New York is collecting cigarette butts and other trash from which DNA can be extracted. This is then sent to a lab which provides a profile from which the artist can then create a sculpture representing a possible face for the donor; DNA will provide clues on racial original, hair and eye colour and so forth.

This is both intriguing and rather disturbing. It is amazing and also rather disturbing. The artist has to make a lot of assumptions so the portraits are unlikely to be particularly accurate but they contain plenty of identifying features. Imagine visiting an exhibition and coming face to face with yourself. Imagine looking at the details of the sample and realising, from time and place, that it probably was something you dropped. Imagine if the display also contained other information culled from the sample and you found out that you were probably the bearer of one or more serious genetic “curses” that were likely to begin revealing themselves sometime soon.

For more information, see the artist’s website and, for images, see her press release.

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