Forget blushing roses and bold abstracts. Have your DNA or fingerprints adorn your living room walls
It’s now possible. Walk your guest in, and show off a dazzling display of your portrait on your living room wall. It’s multi-coloured, made-to-order, designer-framed. With just one difference: it is your DNA — blown up and printed.
Coffee table start-up
“My best friend Adrian Salamunovic and I were hanging out in my apartment,” says Nazim Ahmed, the bio-tech guy of the duo that founded DNA 11. “I was working for a California-based bio-tech company, and had some images of DNA on my coffee table. Adrian thought they looked more like art. I took samples of our DNA to a lab, and created images. We printed them on canvas, and hung them. Over time, people started asking us to make portraits for them.”
Sheer passion created the company and a world-wide business, he said. “We launched www.dna11.com, and we now have clients in over 50 countries with facilities in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.” Their work has appeared in the Sundance Film Festival and CSI:NY featured it in one of its episodes.
How it’s done
No more frozen smiles, no posing for long hours. You use a swab to collect cheek (millions really!) cells — painlessly — and leave it on something called an FTA card, part of a DNA collection kit. A special chemical on the card releases the DNA, traps and stabilises it for storage. The card is sent to a lab with a barcode for privacy. The DNA is analysed for unusual genome sequences and put through a polymerase chain reaction for replication. Pieces of DNA of different sizes and amounts emerge, forming your unique portrait, a digital-biological visual.
In their fine-art stage, the strands journey through a gel, meet a mild current, get separated for size, are stained, fluoresced in a trans-illuminator and photographed. Designers then make adjustments to meet your choices of colour, size and saturation. It’s now ready for printing on to a poly-cotton canvas using ink “that will resist sunlight fading”. The final touch is a protective coating to resist scratches. Not enough?
Get your fingerprint portrayed, or even better, your kiss framed. All fine, but hanging your DNA from a nail? “Look at its symbolism,” says Nazim Ahmed. It shows we are uniquely individual but similar, “as opposed to a photograph which displays our differences more prominently. DNA art promotes tolerance.” It’s educative, he says. “Builds awareness of genome mapping. Our DNA portraits are a way to introduce genetics by means that we can all relate to — art.”
Isn’t public display of DNA a breach of privacy? “No. There’s no medical or forensic information you can derive from them.”
Want a real view? The DNA 11 gallery in Colaba, Mumbai (Ph: 98203-37065 / 24052019), has a display of this art. Your DNA travels abroad to become art.
So, how expensive is this? “Prices range from Rs. 25,000 for a single DNA piece to Rs. 85,000 for a four-in-one. Fingerprint and kiss start at Rs. 15,000,” says Qadir Rangwala, distributor of DNA 11 in India. “Prices vary depending on delivery and framing options.”
So there. Let your fingerprints speak for you, and your lips make an avant-garde art statement.