Genetic Portraits are a series of microscope photographs of laser-etched glass, which data-visualize a person’s genetic traits.
Using data provided by volunteers from 23andMe — a popular online genetic analytic engine related to health and ancestry — my software code generates abstract shapes and lines related to specific genetic tags such as lactose tolerance, athleticism and alcohol addiction. I then laser-etch the digital files onto glass microscope slides, capturing the unpredictable effects of the heat process of physical data-mapping.
The process of digital-to-analog conversion and recapture-as-prints reflects the unpredictable nature of genetic data itself, as it translates through many biological mechanisms. Organizations such as 23andMe have recently come under scrutiny by the FDA for its predictive analysis of people’s genetic data, which often deviates from one’s actual traits in real life. As genome information becomes widely available, viewing our personal “blueprint” as something that is changeable and non-predictive becomes not only a philosophical argument but a political one as well.