Media iWant 

A DNA self-portrait

So what do you get for the guy who iWants everything? Try this: 1) exhume his great-grandmother 2) pluck a hair from her head 3) extract the appropriate DNA and run it through computer filtering, and 4) hang the result over the bidet.

As Adrian Salamunovic, co-founder of dna11 points out, only Step 3 is strictly necessary, though the other steps sure make for great copy, and that’s what the Current is all about. For those of a less macabre bent, Salamunovic hastens to add that the majority of DNA samples sent to his company are from saliva, not grave robbers, and that the product is marketed to upscale connoisseurs, not ghouls. For just $500 — give or take a few Ben Franklins — you, too, can immortalize your DNA in cyber art.

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For $500 – give or take a few Franklins – your genetic code can be displayed for all to admire.

The project began serendipitously. Salamunovic, a graphic designer, was bunking with Nazim Ahmed, a biotechnician. One evening, Salamunovic saw some of Ahmed’s DNA printouts lying about the pad. A genetically encoded light bulb went off in his head: What if such prints were gussied up to produce absolutely unique, commercially available art? A few years and two intercontinental offices later, dna11 is ready to turn your molecular structure into a Jackson Pollock.

How does it work? A pre-order option on dna11’s website, dna11.com, includes a saliva collection kit that you can even order as a present. (Remember, Mother’s Day is just around the corner! Saliva: the gift that keeps on giving.) The sample is then sent to dna11’s headquarters, and run through super-secret über-processing. Four to eight weeks later you’ll receive your computerized DNA printed on canvas in your choice of sizes and colors, including a special DNA GlowFrame option. This makes your DNA look like a plasma TV with no commercials and round-the-clock DNA programming. It’s Gattaca without the superfluous plot, acting, or soundtrack.

Special options include a side-by-side DNA canvas, in which you and your inamorato’s DNA greet the ages forever locked in genetic embrace. But why stop with humans? Salamunovic says that the company’s strangest request so far has been “a double DNA picture for ferrets. We’ve had two requests for iguanas, but that didn’t turn into business.” Seems that the iguanas didn’t pay up.

And what does Higher Science have to say about this DNA art? Dereth Phillips, a Ph.D. from Harvard in genetics and currently a postdoctoral researcher at Rice University, thoughtfully opined: “Um, I think they hung them upside-down.” Pressed for further insights, Phillips remarked that dna11’s processing method — Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism analysis — is “sooooo 1990’s. Newer methods can make DNA from your most recent STD look like a Seurat.”

But whether it’s Granny Maria or gonorrhea hanging over the settee (who could tell the difference, after all?) Salamunovic emphasizes that even with a money-back guarantee, not one customer has returned his or her DNA art: “Who can reject their own DNA? It’d be like rejecting yourself.”

Thomas Jenkins


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