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Chelsea Manning Is Going to Make an Art World Debut

The masks in ‘A Becoming Resemblance’ were constructed from DNA samples Manning sent to artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg from prison.

by Nathaniel Ainley
Jul 4 2017, 12:05am

Images courtesy of The Fridman Gallery. Heather Dewey-Hagborg Radical Love, Chelsea Manning, 2016. Photo credit: Luthy

While incarcerated for violating the Espionage Act in 2013, former U.S soldier Chelsea Manning sent cheek swabs and hair clippings to visual artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg, who turned those DNA samples into 30 3D-printed masks. Come August, reports ArtNews, New Yorkers will get the chance to see each one of those masks in the flesh at a new exhibition entitled, A Becoming Resemblance. The collaborative new exhibition coming to the Fridman Gallery marks Manning's art world debut. According to the gallery, the exhibition focuses on themes surrounding gender identity and emerging technologies, exploring how these concepts impact one another and how they are interpreted by modern day society.

In a statement to the gallery, Manning describes the collaboration: "Prisons try very hard to make us inhuman and unreal by denying our image, and thus our existence, to the rest of the world. Imagery has become a kind of proof of existence. The use of DNA in art provides a cutting edge and a very post-modern—almost 'post-post-modern'—analysis of thought, identity, and expression. It combines chemistry, biology, information, and our ideas of beauty and identity."

Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Radical Love, Chelsea Manning, 2016. Photo credit: Monika Flueckiger

In addition to the portrait masks, the exhibition will also include works from a series titled Suppressed Images, a comic book illustrated by visual artist Shoili Kanungo wherein Dewey-Hagborg and Manning envision a future in which Obama commutes Chelsea's sentence. The artists first started working on the project before Manning had been released. According to the gallery, the graphic short story ends with Manning showing up to an exhibition of her own portraits. The gallery writes, "The first part of the forecast came true just several hours after the comic had been published: Obama commuted Chelsea's prison sentence and she has now been released. The present exhibition is the realization of the second part of the forecast: for the first time Chelsea will be able to view the portraits produced from her DNA in person." Check out more works from the show below:

Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Stranger Visions, 2012-2013. Photo credit: Heather Dewey-Hagborg
Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Stranger Visions, 2012-2013. Photo credit: Heather Dewey-Hagborg
Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Stranger Visions, 2012-2013. Photo credit: Heather Dewey-Hagborg

Learn more about the show at the Fridman Gallery's website.

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