Selling an artist’s full genome: 380gb of personal DNA data.
What is the value of a single human DNA profile?
“My first reaction to his project was indeed a moral dilemma: what abuse can opportunists put his genome to, shouldn’t it be protected, he should claim copyright, claim authorship!
And voilà, there we are, in a field where ownership, authorship, copyright of art on the internet is being discussed, we are in the public space where the privacy of your money and the integrity of your life is challenged on a daily base.”
By Cees de Boer – Opening speech Art Along the Schinkel, 2015
(Cees de Boer was curator of the Dutch pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2015)
Cellout.me is an artwork that offered Jeroen van Loon’s entire DNA data for sale – online, for one year. Anybody could place a bid through www.cellout.me. The auction ended on 27 september 2016 at 24:00h, with the Verbeke Foundation as the highest bider and therefor the new owner van van Loon’s DNA data.
The artwork can be seen as an extremely personal and modern self-portrait: 3 billion lines of code. DNA data consists out of the A, T, C or G’s which together form van Loon’s genetic blueprint, holding all his heritable information – including partly that of his son, sister, parents and grandma.
The sale of this artwork will pull future digital culture into the present, asking new questions concerning authorship, intellectual property, copyright, privacy, big data and ethics:
How do we conceive of something like a moral selling price in relation to the cost price?
What are the consequences of owning someone else’s DNA data?
How does this influence the spatial privacy of the biological owner and/or his family members?
The server cabinet shows the DNA data and the most recent bid. Seven framed photo’s shows the ‘blood-to-data’ process. Four original letters – written by Christie’s Amsterdam, ErasmusMC, KPMG and Fox-It – expand the discourse on selling human DNA data. See right column for pdf documents.
All installation photos are by Gert-Jan van Rooij.
All ‘blood-to-data’ photos are by Erik Borst.