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V&A curators unveil 3D-printed portrait of Chelsea Manning in Davos

Model was created using DNA of the transgender whistleblower

by Gareth Harris  |  21 January 2016
V&A curators unveil 3D-printed portrait of Chelsea Manning in Davos
A 3D-printed portrait of Chelsea Manning is on view in the exhibition This Time Tomorrow in Davos. Photo © WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/swiss-image.ch/Monika Flueckiger
Curators at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London have co-organised an exhibition on design innovations, which is on display at Davos this week in the Swiss Alps. The show, This Time Tomorrow (20-23 January), coincides with the high-powered annual meeting attended by around 3,000 heads of government, business leaders, scientists and economists.

The exhibition was developed in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, the non-profit foundation behind the Davos meeting. It explores technological advances such as artificial intelligence and 3D printing, “presenting six scenarios that contemplate how we can use design to understand where the world is heading”, says the V&A curator Mariana Pestana.

A section called Scale: DNA includes two life-sized models of the face of Chelsea Manning, the transgender US soldier who was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for leaking more than 70,000 secret US files.

The 3D-printed works, entitled Radical Love, were created by the Chicago-based artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg, who made the portraits based on biological data drawn from Manning’s DNA. This was obtained through a saliva swab and a hair sample provided by the former US soldier, who cannot be photographed during her incarceration.

Another section includes a garment with 120 small solar panels, which, if worn in the sun for an hour, can power a smartphone. The T-shirt was co-created by the designer Pauline Van Dongen and the Dutch scientific research units, Holst Centre and TNO.

The V&A show explores the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which “is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres,” according to the journal Foreign Affairs. This theme taps into the subject of this year’s Davos meeting: Mastering the Fourth Revolution.

The first Industrial Revolution introduced steam power, which boosted the railways. The second was driven by electricity, leading to mass manufacturing, and the car and aircraft boom. Information technology and the internet shaped the third revolution; the fourth follows these digital-age developments.

This Time Tomorrow pre-empts a major V&A exhibition about the future of design organised by the museum’s department of design, architecture and digital.

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