DNA from Cigarette Butts Turned into 3D Printed Portraits

- Jun 03, 2019-

If you’re guilty of dropping cigarette butts around New York City, you could be part of a permanent display at the Wellcome Collection in London.


Heather Dewey-Hagborg is the artist behind the art display, Stranger Visions. The American artist trawled the streets looking for anything harboring DNA, including cigarette butts, chewing gum, and hair for this project.


The idea was to use art to call attention to “the potential for a culture of biological surveillance” as the technology of forensic DNA phenotyping becomes more routinely used by police.


The resulting art is shocking as Dewey-Hagborg used the DNA she collected to analyze and gain insights into the gender, ethnicity, and even eye color of each stranger. From this, she used face-generating software to build up an idea of what this stranger would look like.


Rather than keeping the stranger’s face on the computer, Dewey-Hagborg brought them to life by using a 3D printer to create life-size full-color portraits.


Exploring What it Means to be Human in the 21st Century

Dewey-Hagborg’s work fits right into a new greater show called Being Human which explores “what it means to be human in the 21st century”.


It will now be on permanent display at the Wellcome Collection, the free museum and library in central London. The 3D printed piece is replacing the “Medicine Now gallery” which saw 2 million visitors over the course of 12 years.


In total, the show includes 50 pieces which reflect human relationships with the world and is broken down into four sections: Climate Breakdown, Infection, Genetics, and Minds & Bodies.


Artists also on display include; Yinka Shonibare, Deborah Kelly, Katherine Araniello, Kia Labeija, Superflex, Onoman Collective, Cassils, and Tasha Marks.


This new gallery is due to open on September 5th and is located on Euston Road. Go along to find out whether one of the faces staring back at you is remarkably like your own…