Origins of Biometric Data Viewable Through December

Part of 9e2 Seattle, Geraldine Ondrizek’s exhibition, Origins of Biometric Data, remains on view in the President's Gallery through December 17. For members of the public, viewing may be done by appointment. The gallery is open to students, faculty, and staff Monday through Friday during normal business hours.

As part of 9e2 Seattle, Creative Corridor Interim Chair Genevieve Tremblay arranged for an exhibition of Geraldine Ondrizek’s work at Cornish College of the Arts. Ondrizek is a professor and artist at Reed College. For the last 25 years she has collaborated with genetic and medical researchers to make architectural based installations. She has had over 30 solo exhibitions internationally and is the recipient of several grants including, from the Ford Family Foundation, the Oregon Arts Commission, NASA, the Houston Foundation, UNESCO, the NEA, and the Mellon Foundation.  Her work was in Exo-Evolution at ZKM in Karlsruhe, Translocation at Musrara Mix in Jerusalem and Momentum AIR in Berlin in 2015. Her BFA is from Carnegie-Mellon University and her MFA from the University of Washington.

ARTIST STATEMENT FOR ORIGINS OF BIOMETRIC DATA

In 2015-16, I was awarded both a Ford Family Foundation and a year sabbatical from Reed College to continue my research on the visualization of genetics and eugenics, In the fall of 2015, I was an artist-in-residence at Momentum in Berlin, Germany, a research based artist residency, to access the Max Planck Archive of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute.

I was given access to archives at the Max Planck in  Dahlem to view the work of Dr. Georg Geipel, an anthropologist and statistician who worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin from 1930 through 1960. Geipel used methods of dermatoglyphics and dactyloscopy for the study of  fingerprints and handprints to link the pattern to inheritance. Geipel assigned mathematical coordinates to the lines and curve in the hand to create a system of measurement.

Through these measurements Geipel was able to identify inherited hand line similarities in identical twins based on embryology and racial difference. It should be emphasized that although his ability to identify genetic inheritance was significant, his evaluation and conclusions of racial difference and mental ability had grave consequences on society during the Second World War. However, he did continue to refine mathematical identification systems after the war. Geipel’s mapping and measuring of fingerprints proved that these marks are unique for each of us. He created a system that measured the breaks and intersections of the lines in the hands which is now used in hand and fingerprint scanners today for the collection of biometric data.

The history of biometric data skips the 1930s through 1950s because of the negative associations. However, the effects of taking biometric data then and the effects of taking it now as a method of surveillance and as an identity code for each human being, is hauntingly similar.

I have had the privilege to look at thousands of these studies and have focused on those from the 1950s through the 1960s of identical twins. Twin studies have continued to be of vital importance to genetics as they show the subtle difference in the genetic make up of each human being. 

I aim to honor those who offered their identity markers for science. It is highly unlikely that they would have known how their personal mark would have been used to establish the system we use now. However, the knowledge gained, for better or worse, is part of a system of biometric data collection that begins at birth with the taking of a child’s handprints and has become the standard measure of our identify worldwide.

The  exhibition includes books, photographs, video and textiles based on findings from the Max Plank Archive of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute and the first DNA fingerprints from the Wellcome Trust London.     

Special thanks to: The Max Plank archivist, Kristina Starkloff and librarian Bernd Hoffmann for assisting in the archive research, The  Kunstquarter Bethianian studio managers for assistance in production.                                                                                                                                                                  

Works in the exhibition at the President’s Gallery through December 16 are:

Fingerprint/DNA Fingerprint

DNA Fingerprint Repeat
Textile

Zwillinge, 2 Archival
Prints

EZ and ZZ Zwillinge (4
Books)

Zwillinge Handabdrucke
Psychiatrischen Kliniken, West Deutschland 1950-1964 (4 Books)

 Geraldine Ondrizek’s exhibition, Origins of Biometric Data, remains on view in the President's Gallery through December 17. For members of the public, viewing may be done by appointment. The gallery is open to students, faculty, and staff Monday through Friday during normal business hours.