With this project, I aimed to keep exploring and working on the project I initiated last semester. The conclusion that I drew out of that first attempt is the obvious duality between the objective science and subjective feelings.
But this duality quickly appeared as integral as necessary. I decided then to focus my research on the conceptual bridge that would connect this two entities Parallay, I engaged the process of ethnicity analysis through DNA sample.
I signed up for MyHeritage online company. My previous researches provided me with a solid background in that matter, which allows me to suspect the very unprofessional and speculative work of those companies. I was curious to know and confront my personal knowledge with the work of this company, the leader in that market.
Once I ordered my kit, I received the package couple of days later. My first impression regarding this is the fact that the marketing part is going over the scientific professionalism. It is absolutely well designed, with trendy colors and fashionable graphics.
Once my results got published, my suspicions got confirmed, as their analysis results are ridiculously wrong (except for one point). It speculates that I have origins from Irland, together with the Balkans, Scandinavians and the Middle East, which personal researches continuing my family tree over 2 centuries confirmed wrong. Also, there are no signs of French either German, which makes absolutely no sense.
Another critic that must be made is the huge confusion between ethnicity, nationality, regionalism, and religion. Basic common sense suffices to read the inaccuracy of this work. In fact, how does this company differ "Italian" from "Sicilian" ethnicity ? or how can it assumes that your personal faith (Jewish) will be written in your DNA? Those amalgams highly discredit the work of this company, which is hard to believe made by scientists.
I resolved then to articulate my thoughts through an installation, which will highlight the connection between science and personal feelings. The installation consisted of two videos, one from an old CRT TV and one coming from a video projector. The latter video (coming from the video projector) is projected on the TV screen, itself playing on a video; creating thus a sculptural effect. The old TV takes place as a metaphor for my own representation, while the design video projector stands for my researches and knowledge.
I made various tests to visualize the feasibility of my ideas.
I became then curious to compare different DNA companies. I decided to send off my DNA samples to three different companies, expecting to get 3 different results. The second company that I sign up for was 23andme.
This second DNA test was quite similar to the first one surprisingly, except that it has acknowledged some French/German ancestors. Here again, we have a significant percentage of British/Scandinavian/Balkan heritage. What is interesting is the fact that I cannot confirm this result through my own knowledge regarding my family history (I was able to retrace my family tree over 2 centuries) but it seems that 2 different companies (that are then using a different database) had been able to come to the very same conclusion.
Assuming that those results could carry some truth, I was then wondering what could that mean to me. What influence could have such results on my everyday life, and on the perception of my own identity?
Having the chance to study abroad in Boston for a semester, I met the Harvard University microbiologist and geneticist Jon Beckwith, who kindly agree on supporting me and collaborating with me through this project. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Beckwith
I got invited multiple times to various meetings with other scientists, all fascinated with the subject of ethnicity. It is indeed a quite controversial topic, as the scientific community still disagree on certain points, but all recognize that humans cannot be divided into biologically distinct subcategories, which challenges the traditional concept of biologically separate and distinct races. Nevertheless, it seems that analyzing diverse genome markers is likely to define a population group, to a certain extent.
Based on this new pattern, I decided to change my angle. I attacked the problem the other way around. I found a scientific paper that refers to a primer that defines subhaplogroups. This paper completes the DNA sequencing that covers virtually all (sub)haplogroups discernible to date in East Asia. It can serve as a solid basis for phylogeographic (also deduced from the complete human genome) to define whether this primer would run samples of my own DNA. If that is the case, it could mean that I do carry some makers usually associate to East Asian genome, but it could also lead to a quite unusual conclusion: Genetics is manipulable.
Ritual Video https://vimeo.com/300381485