Using found DNA, one artist imagined this 3D-printed face. Watch "DNA Portrait."

The video “DNA Portrait,” just below, is a lovely short documentary made by TED’s own Kari Mulholland. It explores 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 just 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-sequencing 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.”

Watch (full-screen is best) >>


Join the conversation! 12 Comments

  1. Mind=Blown.

  2. SO INTRIGUED…and a little scared! As an artist, I appreciate the wonderment that got her to this project. As someone who seeks to learn everything there is to learn about everything, I appreciate her tenacity! Admiration abounds!

  3. That can really help solve crimes faster. Wow. That is a little scary but more amazing!

  4. It’s amazing how fast technology, science, and art are merging together

  5. My question is … has she matched the 3d model to the actual person whom she already knew. Just to see how closely they resemble together. Proof should be in the pudding then.

  6. I have no doubt about the power of new technology, but what i want to discuss is if it’s right when we leave something personal behind in public and someone takes it to do whatever they want with it?

    • Leaving something personal behind……Well then, yes it would be an invasion of ones privacy. On the other hand finding chewing gum or cigarette ends on the street that a person disposed of with a blatant disregard for their environment (and which in most places is illegal)and printing their face…….. I’m all for that! The potential to use this technology for good is huge but like most useful ideas it will be patented and hidden away only to be used for money making purposes.

  7. Carter. I agree that Deborah`s c0mment is good, on friday I got a gorgeous Cadillac sincee geting a check for $7338 this last month and-a little over, $10,000 lass-month. with-out a doubt this is the nicest work Ive had. I began this four months/ago and almost straight away got me over $70, per/hr. I use this website,,

  8. uptil I looked at the paycheck ov $8691, I accept that my cousin was like they say truley bringing home money parttime at their laptop.. there uncle started doing this for under nine months and by now cleared the debts on their home and got a gorgeous Cadillac. go to,

  9. my co-worker’s mother-in-law makes $87/hr on the laptop. She has been out of a job for 9 months but last month her check was $14411 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this web site

  10. It looks wired, though it can make A portrait of you, can it supply the delicate information of you? don’t you think it’s very dangerous? a single hair? My god! I had to try full lace wigs

  11. Wow, that’s something else!

Comments are closed.

About Helen Walters

Helen Walters is the ideas editor at TED. Previously the innovation and design editor at BusinessWeek, she writes about interesting people and what keeps them up at night.




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