Hannah Cai—Looking Outwards—10

Stranger Visions

I chose the project “Stranger Visions” by Heather Dewey-Hagborg. I was drawn to, and impressed by, the fact that she created her own software to generate digital “portraits” of strangers based on their DNA (which she collected by picking up random pieces of gum, hair, etc from streets). She started this controversial project in 2012 as a means to call attention to “the developing technology of forensic DNA phenotyping, the potential for a culture of biological surveillance, and the impulse towards genetic determinism.” These predictions came true two years later, when police and crime investigators started analyzing DNA as a part of trying to determine the culprits of crimes.

Heather received a PhD in Electronic Arts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and in her bio states that she is “interested in art as research and critical practice,” which I find very interesting as a design student. Art is normally seen as very different from design; as purely aesthetic and usually meaningless (in terms of real-world application). Heather turns that notion on its head. I would call her a researcher and data visualizer, and not an artist; but I still find her practical approach to art interesting and admirable.

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