Stranger Visions

In Stranger Visions I collected hairs, chewed up gum, and cigarette butts from the streets, public bathrooms and waiting rooms of New York City. I extracted DNA from them and analyzed it to computationally generate 3d printed life size full color portraits representing what those individuals might look like, based on genomic research. Working with the traces strangers unwittingly left behind, the project was meant 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.

The forecast of Stranger Visions came true. Just 2 years later Parabon NanoLabs launched a service they called DNA "snapshot" to police around the US. For more examples see Identitas and read about their collaboration with the Toronto police.

Since this time I have devoted critical efforts to discussing the limitations and bias in phenotyping technology, which I (and many scientists) do not consider accurate or impartial enough for use in criminal investigations. For a discussion of my concern that this may become a new form of racial profiling see my article "Sci-fi Crime Drama with a Strong Black Lead" in the New Inquiry magazine.

This work was created with the support of Eyebeam and the mentorship of Genspaceand NYU's Advanced Media Studio. It is in the collection of the Centre Pompidou and private collections worldwide.

petri-web

Talks

I have given many public presentations about Stranger Visions on panels, and at conferences and festivals including: MoMA R&D Salon #15: Way of the Algorithm, The Wilson Center for Public Policy, The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board, The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Genspace, The New School, The International Association of Privacy Professionals, and Eyeo.

Press

Cover of Government Technology. Features on: Arts Asia Pacific, New Scientist, TED, BBC, Reuters, the German cultural show Aspekte on the channel ZDF, the New Yorker, the Guardian, CNN Sunday Morning, CNN International, and CNN Technovations, NPR, Smithsonian, New York Times Magazine, Wired UK, Fuji TV in Japan, CNN, Wall Street Journal, Times of London and UK Daily Mail, Il Sole 24 Ore, Dan Rather Reports (video) (starts at 39:38), Studio 360 (radio and video), Art Ukraine, CBS News Radio, Le Monde, Haaretz, New York Post (video), The Boston Globe, The Creators Project, Designboom, The Verge, Fast Company, Motherboard and "face of the day" on the Daily Beast. Write-up in Science Magazine, Capital New York and Artlog

Exhibitions

Stranger Visions, winner of an Ars Electronica honorary mention 2015 and a special mention at VIDA 15.0, has been exhibited locally and internationally at events and venues including: Fotomuseum, Winterthur, Article Biennial, Norway, Saint Gaudens national historic site, The New York Public Library, Ars Electronica, Eyebeam, Science Gallery Dublin, the 92Y Tribeca, Clocktower Gallery, Washington Project for the Arts, University of Technology Gallery in Sydney, among many others.

A public version of the genetic profiling code is available on github and there are tutorials and related information on my blog.

Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions

Installation at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
Sept 6, 2014

Stranger Visions

Installation at Laznia Museum of Contemporary Art in Gdansk, Poland, 2016.

Stranger Visions

Sample box for NYC sample 4
Installation at Clocktower artist residency, January 2013

Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions

Portrait and samples from New York: Sample 4
1/6/13 12:20pm
Myrtle ave. and Himrod St. Brooklyn, NY

MtDNA Haplogroup: T2b (European)
SRY Gene: absent
Gender: Female
rs12913832: AA
Likely Eye Color: Brown
rs4648379: CT
Slightly smaller nose size
rs6548238: TT
Slightly lower odds for obesity

Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions

Portrait and samples from New York: Sample 2
Collected 1/6/13 12:15pm
1381 Myrtle ave. Brooklyn, NY

MtDNA Haplogroup: H2a2a1 (Eastern European)
SRY Gene: present
Gender: Male
rs12913832: AA
Eye Color: Brown
rs4648379: CC
Typical nose size
rs6548238: CC
Typical odds for obesity

Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions

Portrait and samples from New York: Sample 3
Collected 1/6/13 12:17pm
Himrod st

MtDNA Haplogroup: L2a1 (African)
SRY Gene: present
Gender: Male
rs12913832: AA
Eye Color: Brown
rs4648379: CC
Typical nose size
rs6548238: CC
Typical odds for obesity

Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions

Portrait and samples from New York: Sample 6
Collected 1/6/13 12:25pm
Wilson ave. and Stanhope St. Brooklyn, NY

MtDNA Haplogroup: D1 (Native American, South American)
SRY Gene: present
Gender: Male
rs12913832: AA
Eye Color: Brown
rs4648379: CC
Typical nose size
rs6548238: CC
Typical odds for obesity

Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions

Portrait and portraits from New York: Sample 7
Collected 1/6/13 1pm
33 Flatbush ave. Brooklyn, NY

MtDNA Haplogroup: L1b (Central or West African)
SRY Gene: present
Gender: Male
rs12913832: AA
Eye Color: Brown
rs4648379: CC
Typical nose size
rs6548238: CC
Typical odds for obesity

Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions

Portraits and samples from East Hampton: Sample 1
Collected 6/2/13

MtDNA Haplogroup: H2a2a1 (Eastern European)
SRY Gene: present
Gender: Male
rs12913832: GG
Eye Color: Blue
rs4648379: CC
Typical nose size
rs6548238: TT
Lower odds for obesity

Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions

Portraits and samples from East Hampton: Sample 7
Collected 6/2/13

MtDNA Haplogroup: M48 (North East Indian)
SRY Gene: absent
Gender: Female
rs12913832: AA
Eye Color: Brown
rs4648379: CC
Typical nose size
rs6548238: CC
Typical odds for obesity

Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions

Portraits and samples from Dublin: Sample 3
Collected 8/15/13
Stephen's Green

MtDNA Haplogroup: H2a+152 (European)
SRY Gene: absent
Gender: Female
rs12913832: AG
Eye Color: 56% chance of brown eyes; 37% chance of green eyes; 7% chance of blue eyes.
rs4648379: CC
Typical nose size
rs6548238: CC
Typical odds for obesity

Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions

Portraits and samples collected from Dublin: Sample 4
Collected 8/15/13
O'Connell Bridge

MtDNA Haplogroup: H (European)
SRY Gene: present
Gender: Male
rs12913832: AA
Eye Color: Brown
rs4648379: CT
Slightly smaller nose size
rs6548238: CC
Typical odds for obesity

Stranger Visions
Stranger Visions

Portraits and samples collected from Dublin: Sample 6
Collected 8/15/13
Mary Street

MtDNA Haplogroup: D6 (East Asian)
SRY Gene: present
Gender: Male
rs12913832: AA
Eye Color: Brown
rs4648379: CC
Typical nose size
rs6548238: CC
Typical odds for obesity

Stranger Visions

Kurt Anderson’s DNA Portrait generated anonymously for Studio 360
Photo by Julia Lowrie Henderson
Montage by Stefan Sierhej

Stranger Visions

Collected 6/28/12
Self-portrait

Maternal Haplogroup: U5a2c (N. European)
AIM Admixture: 99.8% European, 92.5% N. European
Earwax: Wet
Malaria Resistance: None
Eye Color: Blue
Crypts: Pronounced
Pigmentation Rings: pronounced
Hair Color: Typical odds of blonde, red or brown hair
Hair Wave: Slightly curlier
Weight: Lower
Height: Average
Skin Color: Lighter
Freckling: More than average
Eye/Nose Distance: Wider

Stranger Visions

Collected 8/1/12
Manu Sporny
https://github.com/msporny/dna
Maternal Haplogroup: M6a (Asian, likely Indian)
Earwax: Wet
Malaria Resistance: None
Eye Color: 56% chance brown eyes, 37% chance of green eyes
Crypts: Typical
Iris Furrows: Typical
Pigmentation Rings: Typical
Hair Color: 5x Decreased odds of blonde hair
Hair Wave: Curlier
Baldness: Typical
Weight: Typical
Skin Color: Typical
Freckling: Typical

Stranger Visions

Collected 8/1/12
Orta
https://github.com/orta/dna
Maternal Haplogroup: T2b5 (Northern European or Spanish)
Earwax: Wet
Malaria Resistance: None
Eye Color: Blue
Crypts: Typical
Iris Furrows: Typical
Pigmentation Rings: Typical
Hair Color: Typical odds of blonde, red or brown hair
Hair Wave: Typical
Baldness: Increased risk
Weight: Lower
Skin Color: Lighter
Freckling: Typical