As the technological and scientific world have been rapidly developing and the tools and technologies that are now available to us have immense capabilities, the mediums and possibilities for artists are practically limitless. We live in an age where the art world is not bound to the classical mediums of the past and can be seen utilizing the many technologies available in the modern world. Heather Dewey-Hagborg project Stranger Visions is an outstanding example of this.
It all began with a random hair stuck in the wall that provoked the artist to wonder whom the face behind the hair was. With no prior experience with biology or genetics Dewey-Hagborg got inventive and came up with a proposal, which she presented to various residency and grant programs, eventually landing her a gig with Eyebeam. She didn’t end up finishing the project with Eyebeam, however they gave Heather all the necessary training to start the project she had long envisioned.
The project was made possible by 3d modeling software. The software, later created out of the bio lab Genspace, was based off the facial recognition algorithms Heather Dewey-Hagborg and others came up with from Eyebeam. The software analyzes sequences DNA and further breaks down the DNA to find areas responsible for specific traits. Isolating these areas and recreating them, Dewey-Hagborg is able to create hypothetical reconstructions of the original proprietors of the DNA she collects.
So whom does Heather exactly decide to create? Besides all the technical and scientific aspects of the project, the creative element is really tied in with who Heather Dewey-Hagborg decided to recreate, strangers; hence the project’s name Stranger Visions. By turning to public places such as bus stops, restrooms, therapist’s office, etc., the identity of some of the collected DNA remains entirely unknown. However she did recreate herself. The results ended up being remarkably spot on.
Although the Stranger Visions project started as a clever idea, the possibilities opened from this project and from the 3D modeling software that Dewey-Hagborg and the biologists at Genspace, open up immense possibilities. Imagine how such a technology would benefit the world of criminal justice, or the benefits this technology would present to historians and so on. Softwares with these capabilities mark a tremendous accomplishment in the modern world.
The problem arises culturally when we have to decide how much credit to give to this technology. For example when does the technology become more trusted upon than the person? We tend to over credit artificial intelligence when there are faults and choices made by the artists and forensic biologist when shaping the models. I believe as this technology further develops, diplomatic problems will arise on the accreditation of artificial intelligence in our society.
Stranger Visions started as a clever idea, and was executed as a successful art project. The project stirs the viewer’s curiosity of the faces behind the DNA strangers leave behind in our public spaces during their daily routines. The project marks a contemporary development landmark with the software development and algorithms that Heather Dewey- Hagborg created during the project. Time will tell how this technology develops in the future.