Art

A portrait of you from a single hair: The work of Heather Dewey-Hagborg

Posted by: Helen Walters

The video “DNA Portrait,” above, is a lovely short documentary shot by TED’s own Kari Mulholland. It features the work of the artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg, who spent time collecting hairs shed in public spaces… and then sequencing the DNA therein to print 3D sculptures of what those hairs’ owners might look like. Whoa. The film is also the secret story of the lab run by TEDGlobal 2012 speaker Ellen Jorgensen. At Genspace, people can experiment with DNA-based technology, regardless of their scientific knowledge or experience. As Jorgensen comments in the film, Dewey-Hagborg’s work is super interesting, not to mention searingly contemporary. “It’s a very accessible way for the public to engage with this new technology. It really brings to light how powerful it is, the idea that a hair from your head can fall on your street and a perfect stranger can pick it up and know something about it,” she says, adding: “With DNA sequencing becoming faster and cheaper, this is the world we’re all going to be living in.”