Artist clones strangers with DNA found on street!

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

self-portrait clone
A self-portrait of Heather Dewey-Hagborg… creepy!

There is a molecule called DNA inside every single one of our cells. It serves as a blueprint and instructs our bodies how to grow.  If DNA were a recipe book, it would say things like, “Make this person 5 feet tall” or “Make this person have 10 fingers and toes.” Can you imagine what a person could do if they got a hold of your DNA? Possibly make another you! And that’s exactly what New York artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg is doing in her project, “Stranger Visions.

You see, even though DNA comes from our bodies, we leave some everywhere we go! This could be in the form of a fallen hair, spittle that comes out of our mouth when we talk, or skin cells shed from our bodies. Dewey-Hagborg goes about New York City and collects DNA left behind on random objects to mold an image of their face! From objects like a piece of gum, she can “learn where someone’s ancestors likely came from, their gender, eye color, hair color, complexion, freckles, their tendency to be overweight and a handful of dimensions of the face as well with a certain likelihood.”

From there she can read the “instructions” from DNA and convert it into a computer code, enhancing different features as she pleases! “The way that I use code is a lot like how a sketch artist would use a pencil,” she said. “I’ll take the code, and then I’ll generate different versions of a face. I’ll use the code to enhance certain facial features or decrease them based on what I find in the DNA.”

When that process is complete, she sends the data to a 3D printer which creates a likeness of the DNA instructions. However, in the off chance that she collected some of your DNA, you wouldn’t be so quick to recognize yourself. Not only are there a number of factors in the environment that affect your genetic code, there is no way to tell your age by looking at the molecule! For that reason, she prints faces that appear to be 30 years old.

To be honest, this project seems kind of creepy to me, and according to Dewey-Hagborg, it’s supposed to be! She didn’t start her project to make a collection of faces from random strangers in her basement or anything. She just wanted to combine science and art to show what technology can do nowadays. “If people find it to be a little creepy, that’s OK,” she explained. “It’s meant to make you aware of these issues and make you aware that this is possible.”

Still, I don’t want her printing out my face anytime soon!

Images courtesy of Stranger Visions.