Monday, May 13, 2013

Bio-Art: The Human Race Machine.

If somebody isn't white as bread, then it's usually easy to tell where somebody comes from based on things like skin color, eye color, facial shape, etc. I'm willing to bet that somewhere, in some bar, someone has asked, "hey, I wonder what I'd look like as a black person?" Well, wonder no more.

Enter the Human Race Machine by Nancy Burson. The tagline is "There's No Gene For Race," and indeed, there isn't. It was originally developed as a commission for London's Millennium Dome in 2000, but several copies have been made. They have since appeared on CNN, Oprah, and other major media outlets.

The Human Race Machine creates realistic images of how one would look if one was a different race. The machine has black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Indian, and Middle Eastern variations on your own face waiting to be produced. It's certainly a neat device, and should you find one in a museum near you, please try it out. It's not necessarily revolutionary software (similar "morphing" programs have been around for ages), but definitely a good use of computer graphics.

As her site puts it, "the concept of race is not genetic, but social."Indeed, the concept of race is not genetic, but the traits leading to race are. Things like hair, skin, and eye color can all be genetically mapped. The site details the discovery of exactly one gene that coded for the amount of expressed melanin in Homo sapiens. We are indeed 99.9% alike beneath the skin.

This is another one where I feel pressed to ask, "is this really bio-art?" Considering how many things I have considered bio-art on this column, it'll count, but the only real science to this one is that race does not have a single gene. Also, it feels more warm and fuzzy than most of the entries here. Still, if it's good enough for the course I took on bio-art, it'll cut it here.

No comments:

Post a Comment