Emotion detector, 3D printer, screen, cement

free software MakeHuman

DNA in plastics is part of a corpus of several works committed to thwarting the often erroneous or distorted representations that we have of the DNA molecule.

As part of Dominique Peysson's artistic residency at Espace Jean-Roger Caussimon in Tremblay-en-France, in partnership with Lieu Multiple, the DNA school and the Ebi-Carbios laboratory in Poitiers and supported by the Seine-Saint-Denis Department and the Ile-de-France Region.
DNA in plastics was exhibited from January 5 to March 10, 2017 for the Première Impression exhibition, consisting of 5 of my works on DNA.

First impression addresses the notion now recognized as false by scientists of the DNA carrier of the formal plan of our morphology. In reality, it is the meeting of growth information with the environment where it takes place that will gradually guide the taking of form. The artist here takes issue with this notion of ideal form materializing in matter. Première impression reintroduces into the process of 3D printing, originally designed to materialize an ideal form from an amorphous material that must be forgotten, the part of the sensitive and the loss of control. It is the spectator's emotion, collected by a sensor, which will interfere with the generation of the morphology file, to print a whole series of emotion-faces.


The discovery of DNA has led many people to overvalue genetics in this delicate balance between innate and acquired. The idea that the code, inscribed on a molecule within all of our cells down to the smallest, could fully define us spread all the more powerfully because it corresponded to a vision already well anchored in our society. Because by pushing even further the predominance of the innate over the acquired, it is not only the physical but also the character that can be considered as predefined in advance. Not so long ago, theories establishing links between our physique and our character were on the rise. Physiognomy, a fashionable method in the 19th century, was based on observing someone's physical appearance, mainly their facial features, to deduce their character or personality. Balzac was inspired by this method to describe his characters in La Comédie Humaine. Some people have even used these smoky theories to define the typical faces of criminals. This is the case of the criminologist Cesare Lombroso, who participated in the establishment of an Italian positivist school, aimed at acting in favor of the social order. Francis Galton also used the morphology of faces. He remained infamous for his eugenic biometric diagrams. The fusion in an image of photographic negatives of a collection of criminals allowed him to define generic faces of the criminals or the syphilitic.


Scientists have since backtracked, and the environment in which each individual will develop is now considered at least as important as the hereditary baggage. Because the order of the nucleotides does not provide a plan of the living being to come or in growth, but rather directives of construction. It is therefore the application of these guidelines in a given context that will lead to a result that can be expressed as co-elaboration. But the habits of thought are persistent, and this notion of an initial plan still leaves a strong impression. The advent of 3D printing materializes this Platonic idea that there is a virtual ideal form, and that matter must take shape according to its plans to become worthy of interest. The material is then considered as amorphous and must be forgotten. The plastic aspect of ABS or PLA, the raw materials most used in 3D printing, is not very aesthetic, even if it is possible to perfect the surface a little to eliminate the effects of lines and residual defects. You have to enter a file with the part designed in 3D, and hope that the reproduction will be as faithful as possible. The number of clones produced from the same file is then unlimited.
I was therefore interested in the 3D representations that we have of the human body: these virtual visualizations resulting from a program, and which represent us as individuals. Looking specifically for what could be the "generic" file? What would be the average man as the computer files conceive him? And in particular, which are or will be the most widespread? Because then, it is these generic images that will be distributed to us as representations of our own physique… What will be the impact for us, our children, of a generic formatting? Of what is beautiful and what is ugly? Of a physique that is fashionable, of another that is not?


There is free software whose name is evocative: MakeHuman. It is so easy to use, in addition to having the advantage of costing nothing, that it is certain that many of the human representations on the net will be - or already are - from this program. The software's 3D representations in the form of grids are extremely close to the representations of faces by anamorphosis by Albrecht Dürer, or the morphic constructions by d'Arcy Thompson...


Online dating applications are multiplying, almost all based on the same principle: scrolling faces... And then, in a quarter of a second, we choose: I pass (no), I retain (yes). It is therefore not even the person in real life that we gauge (on his physical appearance), but his photograph… Good/not good. Well… her sex appeal (good/not good). Can it be reduced to that, a face? So what are the selection criteria (yes, good question)? Why can we imagine being able to believe that a set of well-arranged pixels can have any predictive power on the quality of the encounter that will ensue? Or else there is not so much expectation as that, on the quality of the meeting in question, quite simply. What are our emotions, in front of a selfie face? What will be the emotions that we could feel at the sight of a face archetype? Aren't our expectations necessarily pre-formatted (how in 5 seconds can we take the time to accept becoming open to a new, unexpected emotion? We have to go fast, to see more faces, to go basically, to hope to have the widest panel and therefore increase the probability of finding the right one. This process is so foreign to me that it fascinates me, in a way. What type of emotion can we hope to feel the passage of all these faces? Will it be possible to still feel an emotion?


I start from the generation of faces by MakeHuman, the generation of codified humans. And I imagine like a kind of scientific experiment: what can we really feel, with regard to these passing faces? A video shows us a continuum of faces, which slowly pass from state to state, without end. The eyes become more refined, closer together, open more, take on wrinkles, the face lengthens, becomes more feminine, the whole thing changes, one way and then another. All this very gradually, sometimes with jolts. To find out if these faces can still generate an emotion in us, I installed a galvanic sensor. By putting our hand on the sensor, the device detects the emotional flows that pass through us. Like any device designed for work on oneself, retro-action, feedback, it is possible to follow the line of intensity of the sensor. Very moved, insensitive, and the fluctuations between the two... In front of us, the faces that change, and our hand that detects the emotions, in a final effort to capture what there may still be as emotion...


And when – luckily – an emotion arises, then the image that generated it is recorded secretly. It will be kept, so that it can then be transmitted to the printer. The corresponding face can then be printed and shown on a display. A whole collection of busts will thus be completed by faces. Each face is the trace of an emotion felt at the sight of it, however slight it may be… As an attempt to try to understand which of all these typical faces speak to us?