Gallery Program


Emilio Vavarella faces a genetic portrait

RE:presentation (Chapter 2) 
by Emilio Vavarella
November 22, 2023-March 20, 2024
An exhibit in the Second Floor Connector Gallery and Stanley Building Lobby.

Stemming from his previous work in which his mother wove a textile out of his genetic code, now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Bologna, Italy, at Broad, Emilio has been working on a custom software that translates an individual’s genetic codes into pixel arrays that compose genetic portraits. Over the summer, he invited nominations from fellow Broadies to receive a genetic portrait based on one simple question: who is the person at Broad you are most grateful for? 11 names were randomly selected from the original nominations. Participants submitted a genetic sample to a third-party site for analysis and then temporarily shared the raw data with Emilio. The data was then fed into Emilio’s custom software which translated the individual genetic codes into chromatic codes that compose abstract portraits. 

Each portrait reveals the genetic uniqueness of the subject and challenges our capacity and common desire to capture the visual essence of a person. In a historical moment when portraiture is both emptied of meaning (through generative software that can produce photorealistic content without any physical referent in the world), but still remains the main way in which identities are produced and consumed, this series of works opens a path towards a more intimate form of portraiture at the intersection of biotechnology and conceptual art.  

About the Artist