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February 24, 2015

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Stranger Visions Workshop

October 6, 2014


Here is the presentation I gave on SNPs and ancestry

Here is the bricoBio Kevin Chen from Bricobio gave on DNA and DIY bio

Here are Yves Amyot from Turbine’s 3Dprinting


I am putting together a Stranger Visions workshop to take place at Studio XX in Montreal next weekend (Sunday Oct 8) in collaboration with Turbine and bricobio

We will be taking found genetic data files, creating phenotype profiles, generating 3d models interpreting those phenotypes and 3d printing miniature versions of these portraits. Here are some of the resources we will be using:

Found data files

Look on a code sharing website for people who have posted 23andme files

Look on the Personal Genome Project for volunteers who uploaded 23andme data

Here are some examples which I have pre-processed for a later step, cooking show style:


Upload your 23andme file as a zip to the website gedmatch to get admixture information
(this part can take quite a while so I pre-uploaded several files for us to work with)

alternatively you can use the more visual and less quantitative results from Stanford’s Interpretome

Get your mtDNA haplogroup

Convert your 23andme  to ISOGG format using “23andme to ySNPs” tool from
save Y-SNPs and plug into



gedmatch gives eye color prediction



3D Modeling

The easiest and most intuitive way to translate a phenotype profile into a model of a face is using the commercial software facegen this program will let you export a watertight 3d printable head, you just have to install the additional model set how to video here.


More resources:

Here is code I wrote in python to generate a phenotype profile from a user-customizable SNP base–managing-matches.html

here is a worksheet I made which you can use to help create your profile/sketch and document the details of the sample


Call for Proposals – PRISM Break up @ Eyebeam

August 1, 2013



PRISM Break Up
October 3-6, 2013
New York, NY

Request for Proposals

On October 3-6, 2013, Eyebeam Art and Technology Center will host the first event of its kind PRISM Break Up, a series of art and technology events dedicated to exploring and providing forms of protection from overreaching surveillance. The gathering will bring together a wide spectrum of artists, hackers, academics, activists, security analysts and journalists for a long weekend of meaningful conversation, hands-on workshops and art installations.

Why does it matter?

In the contemporary digital era, privacy has become a luxury for the initiated. Google and Facebook mine your personal data for a profit, the government monitors your phone calls, even shopping malls track the mobile phones connected to their wifi. In the wake of revelations about the NSA PRISM program, many citizens are left wondering what they can do to protect their privacy. We believe everyone has a right to define their own digital privacy, understand how it is being compromised, and feel empowered to protect it.

Initiatives like Prism Break (, the Locker Project (, and Security in a Box ( have attempted to combat privacy violations, but the process continues to be complex and inaccessible to the general population. We also recognize that security and privacy, especially at the hardware level, is tricky, but that’s not going to stop us from trying to determine how it can best be protected.


Thursday  Oct. 3 – Kickoff party and art opening.
Friday Oct. 4 – Evening lectures/discussions, screening party.
Saturday Oct. 5- Day of workshops.
Sunday Oct. 6- Lectures/discussions, wrap up, help cafe, cryptoparty.

There are three categories of participation: talks, workshops and art:


Do you have an idea for a lecture, panel discussion or other type of talk you would like to give about privacy, security, surveillance or PRISM related issues? Submit your idea! Talks will take place Friday, Oct. 4th.Topics can be from 15-20 minutes in length, variable if a panel discussion is implied. From the submissions, we will select between 6-8 talks and a maximum of 2 panels.


The goal of these workshops is to share security techniques with the general public. Want to teach people how to secure their communications? Is it possible to get off Google? How do we avoid being tracked? If you know how to do so in a fun and engaging way, propose a workshop! We are also looking for people to assist during our Sunday help cafe.

Initial workshop ideas include implementing any of the PRISM-break technologies (, mobile encryption, building affinity groups, evading hardware level surveillance, steganographic tools, submitting FOIA requests, and generally getting over Google. Workshops will be around 45 minutes in length and take place on Saturday, Oct. 5th.


Do you create works dealing with issues of privacy and surveillance? Submit your work to the PRISM Break Up exhibition taking place Oct. 3-6. Installations and collaborations, non-traditional and experimental work is encouraged.
Is your work ephemeral, hard to transport or located far from New York? We can’t cover transportation but we are having a screening party. Submit a video work or documentation of your privacy themed art to our screening taking place Friday Oct. 4.

Submission Details

Please copy the template below into a blank email and answer in full. Email your proposal to with subject line [workshop] [talk] [art] or  to specify what you are applying to propose. You may submit multiple proposals.

Email address:
Phone number:
Personal URL:

What is it? (pick all that apply)
– Talk
– Workshop
– Artwork (if video for screening please specify)

URL of the work/documentation of the work (if applicable):
Details of implementation (for workshops):
Who is your intended audience? (for workshops):

Budget required:
What will your proposed contribution add to this event?
What do you hope to get out of this experience?


Have a question about the application? Want to help fund this exciting endeavor? Or would you like to volunteer food/drinks/money/time? If you want to help out but don’t have a specific idea, email us and we can figure it out together. Email us at with subject line [volunteer] to get involved!

Hat Tip

The name “PRISM Break Up” is inspired by the website PRISM Break ( by @zcpeng ( that lists alternatives to widely used PRISM-friendly software.


Allison Burtch, Aurelia Moser, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Ramsey Nasser

Closing Party at QF gallery

July 19, 2013

Come by QF gallery tomorrow evening for my closing party!


QF Gallery 
98 Newtown Lane
East Hampton, NY 11937

Saturday, July 20
gallery opens at noon
closing reception 6-8pm

Technical Details

June 30, 2013

This is the first in a series of technical posts I hope to put together over the coming weeks about the process of creating Stranger Visions. Starting from the lab end I will describe in detail how I create these portraits from DNA.

The first step of course is extracting DNA from a sample, that can be done with a kit readily obtainable from Qiagen, the “DNA Investigator Kit”.

After I extract the DNA* I do a test PCR for a specific alu insertion using a primer (full kit is also available) from Carolina. This gives me an idea of whether I successfully extracted chromosomal DNA or not. If the results look bad on this there is probably no reason to go further with this sample.

Next is looking at maternal ancestry from mitochondrial DNA. A couple different primer/kits are also available from carolina to look at this region amplifying for sequencing and  haplotyping.

If all these results look good I continue to look at 3 SNPs associated with particular traits and 1 region on the y chromsome:

rs12913832 – for eye color

SRY gene – present on Y chromosome, I use to indicate gender

rs9939609 – as one of many indicators of obesity

rs4648379 – preliminary research, correlated with the size of the nose

I have been using a free tool on IDT for designing primers to target these regions using PCR. If the result of the reactions looks good in a gel I send them for sequencing.
So those are SNPs I have had success so far analyzing in the lab myself, but there are a whole lot more clues I have on a “master list”, the things I can find out from a 23andme profile for example. In addition to SNPs related to specific traits this includes Y chromosome haplogroup information from males to get an idea of paternal ancestry, as well as Ancestry Informative Markers, specific SNPs that are correlated with population studies giving an overall picture of ancestry beyond the direct maternal and paternal lineage. I am pasting my master list here below (excluding the ancestry info I just mentioned and linked to above as that would increase the list a thousand fold). Also, here is a link to appearance related SNPs on snpedia.

*I have recently discovered that whole genome amplification can also be performed after the extraction step and isn’t as expensive as I previously though – I will likely pursue this in future experiments.

SNP allele associated trait
rs642742 AA west african
rs1426654 AA light skinned european
rs2814778 CC malaria resistance
rs17646946  GG curlier hair in europeans
rs11803731 AA straighter hair
rs12896399 TT blue eyes vs green if not brown – prelim research
rs1426654 AA euro ancestry – light skinned
rs12913832 GG blue eyes
rs1667394 CC decreased odds blond hair
rs1805007 TT higher odds red hair
rs17822931  TT dry earwax
rs1851665 AA greater chance of obesity
rs6625163 AA baldness
rs2153271 TT more freckling
rs7349332 CT;TT curlier hair
rs6732426 CC curlier hair
rs3827760  AG thinner hair (asian)
rs9939609 AA higher BMI
AT typical BMI
TT lower BMI
rs6548238   CC typical BMI
CT;TT lower BMI
rs925946  GT typical BMI
TT higher BMI
GG lower BMI
rs7138803   AG typical BMI
AA higher BMI
GG lower BMI
rs13130484  CT typical BMI
TT higher BMI
CC lower BMI
rs4788102  AG typical BMI
AA higher BMI
GG lower BMI
rs10838738 AG typical BMI
GG higher BMI
AA lower BMI
rs10871777  GG;AG higher BMI
rs6113491 AA baldness
rs6152 GG baldness
rs1385699 TT baldness
rs1393350 AA blue eyes rather than green IF non-brown – preliminary research
rs1533995 AA more pronounced crypts
AG typical
GG less pronounced crypts
rs3739070 AA typical
AC,CC less iris furrows
rs12896399 GG more pronounced pigementation rings
TT absent pigmentation rings
CT slightly higher odds red hair
rs1805009 CC red hair
TT increased odds brown hair
CT typical
CC less freckling
rs4778138 GG less freckling
AA more freckling
rs1805007 CT;TT more freckling
rs1042602 AA absence of freckles
rs2733832 CC darker skin
CT;TT lighter skin
rs1800414 C each c -> 1.3 melanin unit lighter skin in east asians
rs16891982 GG european light skinned
preliminary facial research source
rs4648379 C/T edge of nostril -> tip of lower nose
rs974448 C/T mid eye to top of nose
rs17447439 A/G distance between eyes
rs6555969 C/T distance between cheekbone and nose, ALSO distance between eye and top nose
rs805722 C/T distance between eye and top of nose
Eye and Skin color source

TED video

June 28, 2013

Kari Mulholland over at TED made a short behind-the-scenes documentary about Stranger visions, check it out!

Wilson Center Policy Discussion coming up

May 30, 2013

I am very excited about this event I am participating in on Monday afternoon:

It’s a policy discussion in DC about the bioethical and privacy issues raised by Stranger Visions. If you are in or near DC come by! I will have some work on display, give  a short presentation and then we will have an interactive discussion.

CNN Interview

May 28, 2013

Video of my interview, live on CNN Sunday Morning:



Upcoming in May

May 5, 2013

First off, a really nice post on the smithsonian blog about my work:

Second, if you are in upstate NY on May 12th come by the RPI Grad show 6-8pm in West Hall Art gallery where I will be showing the latest in my work with DNA forensics. See the great poster my colleague Raven Kwok made for the show:
And third, if you are near Montreal on May 25th,  my collective Future Archaeology will be presenting Ohm IV at the Sight and Sound Festival. Details here:

More to come soon!

Studio 360 Interview

February 11, 2013

WNYC and PRI’s Studio 360 did a great feature on my Stranger Visions project:

I received an anonymous sample of hair, and made a portrait of this person’s DNA – see the results below!

Kurt Anderson's DNA Portrait

Kurt Anderson’s DNA Portrait (age 25)
Photo by Julia Lowrie Henderson + Montage by Stefan Sierhej