Awardee: Heather Dewey-Hagborg

Emerging Fields, 2016

Heather Dewey-Hagborg is a Chicago-based transdisciplinary artist and educator who is interested in art as research and critical practice. She works in diverse media ranging from biology, and computation, to sculpture, performance and design. She has shown work internationally at events and venues including the World Economic Forum; Shenzhen Urbanism and Architecture Bienniale; Poland Mediations Biennale; the Article Biennial in Norway; the Centre Pompidou; Ars Electronica in Linz; Transmediale in Berlin; Centre de Cultura Contemporánia de Barcelona; the Science Gallery Dublin; MoMA PS1, the New Museum, Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, and the New York Public Library in New York City. Her work has been widely discussed in the media, from The New York Times and BBC to TED Talks and Wired. She has participated in policy conversations at the Woodrow Wilson Policy Center and the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board.

Project: Sell/Bio

Sell/Bio excavates the histories, infrastructures, protocols and business models that position the most personal of information—an individual’s DNA—as a commodity to be bought and sold on the open market, examining the dubious transformation of human bodies into corporate profits. Rebecca Skloot’s bestseller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks brought international attention to the ethics of medical research based upon the exploitation of human cells taken from a vulnerable patient without her consent. This book describes a forbear of a practice that has expanded dramatically while remaining relatively unregulated. Sell/Bio connects the dots, giving a face and a name to supposedly anonymous DNA, derived from human cells and put up for sale, presenting a visceral portrayal of the invisible subjects of biological exploitation.